December 21, 2011
The United States Government has taken the unprecedented step of asking scientists to censor key parts of their work describing how they managed to mutate the H5N1 bird flu virus into a strain that could be highly infectious and deadly to humans.
US government officials have become so alarmed at the prospect of the information falling into the hands of terrorists intent on making a biological weapon that they have asked for critical details of the experiments to be deleted from scientific manuscripts before being published.
Two groups of scientists, in the Netherlands and the US, have submitted scientific papers to the journals Nature and Science describing how they have managed to convert the bird flu virus, which does not spread easily between people, into an airborne form that can be transmitted in coughs and sneezes.
As The Independent revealed yesterday, a group of special scientific advisors to the US Government decided that the details of the two studies into H5N1 bird flu were too sensitive to be published in full and recommended redactions to the manuscripts rather than a complete ban on publication.