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Bid to censor bird-flu details

A CANBERRA scientist will travel to Washington this week to argue that details should be kept secret of a bird flu capable of killing millions of people worldwide.

European scientists have created a strain of avian flu that can be passed from human to human.

The researchers are seeking a publisher for their findings about the new type of H5N1 virus, but a number of experts fear the detailed information could be used to make biological weapons.

The bird flu epidemic in 2009 killed 500 people globally but it was not easily transferred between humans.

Canberra vaccine expert Professor Ian Ramshaw said the

H5N1 findings should be published but specific parts should be censored.


Ten years ago the professor published the details of a lethal mousepox his team had created.

The team Professor Ramshaw led decided it was in the public interest to publish the information so it could be debated.

In terms of the new virulent bird flu, however, he said the specific mutations used should not be made public.

Professor Ramshaw, a director at the National Centre for

Biosecurity, said, ''As a researcher you do the good thing but in the wrong hands it could be used for evil.

''In this case I'm not so worried about bio-terrorism.

''It's the disgruntled researcher who is dangerous - the rogue scientist.''

In 2008, a United States biodefence researcher committed suicide before being charged with the anthrax mailings that killed five people in 2001. The US Government was sued for US$2.5 million ($A2.45 million) by one victim's family because it did not do enough background checks on researchers working with the virus.

Professor Ramshaw flies out of Australia on Wednesday to put forward his argument of censoring certain details of H5N1 at a conference convened by the National Institutes of Health.

He said publishing the findings could still help other researchers develop vaccines.

There were no censorship laws restricting publication of 'dual-use research''.

Avian flu killed almost two-thirds of the people who contracted it earlier this decade.