Scientists Withhold Details on New Botulinum Toxin

Scientists have discovered a new form of botulinum toxin, but have taken the unusual measure of withholding key details of the discovery, citing concerns over bioterrorism. What does everyone think? We’d love to hear your comments.

NPR – “That’s because botulinum toxin is one of the most poisonous substances known. It causes botulism, and the newly identified form of it can’t be neutralized by any available treatment. The researchers published two reports describing their work online in The Journal of Infectious Diseases. The information in those reports is deliberately incomplete, to prevent anyone from using it as the recipe for a potent new bioweapon. ‘This is not the usual process for publishing manuscripts. We thought in this case an exception was appropriate,’ says David Hooper, an infectious disease specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital who serves as one of the editors of the journal. Normally, the journal would require that the scientists disclose the genetic sequences needed to make the toxin. In this case, however, the researchers didn’t want to do that because of the security risk.”

Read more here and then come back and tell us what you think!

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