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MBio. 2012 Mar 6;3(2):e00049-12. doi: 10.1128/mBio.00049-12. Print 2012.

Working safely with H5N1 viruses.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology, Division of Infectious Diseases, Global Health and Emerging Pathogens Institute, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, New York, USA.


Research on H5N1 influenza viruses has received much attention recently due to the possible dangers associated with newly developed avian H5N1 viruses that were derived from highly pathogenic avian viruses and are now transmissible among ferrets via respiratory droplets. An appropriate discussion, based on scientific facts about the risks that such viruses pose and on the biocontainment facilities and practices necessary for working safely with these viruses, is needed. Selecting the right level of biocontainment is critical for minimizing the risks associated with H5N1 research while simultaneously allowing an appropriately fast pace of discovery. Rational countermeasures for preventing the spread of influenza can be developed only by gaining a thorough knowledge of the molecular mechanisms at work in host specificity and transmission.

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