Mutant flu

Scientists have created a form of the H5N1 avian flu virus that is transmissible between mammals, raising fears that it could trigger a human pandemic if it escapes from the lab - either through accidental release or as part of a bioterror attack. As debate rages over how much of the research should be published, and whether there is sufficient oversight of such work, you can follow all Nature's coverage of the issue here.

Image credit: M. Kemp/Rubberball/Getty Images



  • Handle with care

    The possibility that H7N9 avian influenza may evolve sufficiently to cause a pandemic has scientists turning again to controversial research — they must be careful how they justify the risks taken.

    Nature 500, 121 ( )

  • Vigilance needed

    Experiments that make deadly pathogens more dangerous demand the utmost scrutiny.

    Nature 493, 451-452 ( )

  • Dual-use research: Self-censorship is not enough

    The debate over publishing potentially dangerous research on flu viruses would benefit from a closer look at history, argue David Kaiser and Jonathan D. Moreno.

    Nature 492, 345-347 ( )

  • Publishing risky research

    Imperfect global biosafety standards and a threat to researchers' motivations from biosecurity concerns are among the significant risks in current flu research.

    Nature 485, 5 ( )

  • Bird flu in mammals

    An engineered influenza virus based on a haemagglutinin protein from H5N1 avian influenza, with just four mutations, can be transmitted between ferrets, emphasizing the potential for a human pandemic to emerge from birds.

    Nature ( )

  • H5N1: How to track a flu virus

    Four experts pinpoint ways to improve monitoring of H5N1 avian influenza in the field.

    Nature 483, 535-536 ( )

  • Under surveillance

    Global systems for monitoring threats from flu need a radical overhaul.

    Nature 483, 509-510 ( )

  • Flu papers warrant full publication

    Although more debate is needed, the benefits of publishing sensitive data outweigh the risks that have so far been made public.

    Nature 482, 439 ( )

  • Facing up to flu

    The potential for mutant-flu research to improve public health any time soon has been exaggerated. Timely production of sufficient vaccine remains the biggest challenge.

    Nature 482, 131 ( )

  • H5N1: Flu transmission work is urgent

    Yoshihiro Kawaoka explains that research on transmissible avian flu viruses needs to continue if pandemics are to be prevented.

    Nature 482, 155 ( )

  • Preventing pandemics: The fight over flu

    A proposal to restrict the planned publication of research on a potentially deadly avian influenza virus is causing a furore. Ten experts suggest ways to proceed.

    Nature 481, 257-259 ( )

  • Don't censor life-saving science

    Controlling who is allowed access to information about mutations in the H5N1 bird flu virus is unacceptable, says Peter Palese.

    Nature 480, 115 ( )

  • The long war against flu

    That the H5N1 strain of bird flu has not yet caused a pandemic is no cause for complacency. Preparations for the inevitable must be redoubled to mitigate the potential devastation.

    Nature 454, 137 ( )


Elsewhere in Nature

  • Swine flu

    The World Health Organization declared the first flu pandemic in 41 years on 11 June 2009. As details of the global impact of the 2009 influenza A (H1N1) virus - and efforts to combat the threat - unfold over the coming months, Nature News provides breaking news and authoritative analysis of the science and the politics behind the headlines.

    ( 28 June 2009 )

  • Avian flu

    This is the final issue of Nature Reports Avian Flu, bringing you major advances in research into the highly pathogenic influenza A (H5N1) virus and other influenza viruses up to February 2009.

  • 1918 influenza pandemic

    In 1918, a highly virulent form of the influenza virus killed at least 20 million people worldwide. Understanding the origin of the virus that caused this pandemic has been a long-standing goal because of the risk that a similar virus could arise and devastate human populations today.

    ( 18 January 2007 )

  • Bird flu

    Bird flu outbreaks in Asia have prompted the cull of tens of thousands of ducks and chickens to curtail the disease's spread. As the human death toll continues to grow, many are concerned that the virus will mutate and trigger a human pandemic. Here, Nature keeps track of the key events and scientific discoveries as researchers assess the threat.

    ( 25 August 2004 )