Scientists plan controversial lab-made bird flu

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By LAURAN NEERGAARD, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Scientists who sparked an outcry by creating easier-to-spread versions of the bird flu want to try such experiments again using a worrisome new strain known as H7N9.

Since it broke out in China in March, the bird flu strain has infected more than 130 people and killed 43. Researchers say that genetically engineering this virus in the lab could help track whether it's changing in the wild to become a bigger threat.

They announced the plans Wednesday in letters to the journals Science and Nature.

Such research is allowed only in high-security labs. But the U.S. government is promising extra oversight — saying a special review panel will weigh the pros and cons before deciding if certain flu projects are worth the risk. If not, the government won't fund them.

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