After much delay and intense global controversy, Britain’s Nature magazine has published online the first of two papers describing how the bird flu virus could be modified to be more transmissible from mammal to mammal through the air. The paper, “Experimental adaptation of an influenza H5 HA confers respiratory droplet transmission to a reassortant H5 HA/H1N1 virus in ferrets,” reports work by a group led by Yoshihiro Kawaoka of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and the University of Tokyo.
Both Nature and Science, its U.S. counterpart, carried news reports about the decision to proceed with publication. Nature’s report, by Ed Yong, is to be recommended especially for a nice graphic summarizing the steps taken to modify the H5N1 virus, the Science report, by Martin Enserink and Jon Cohen, for its dispassionate analysis of how the decision to publish was reached. The second of the two articles, by Ron Fouchier of Erasmus MC in Rotterdam, is expected to follow soon in Science magazine.