Subscribe free to our newsletters via your
. Earth Science News .

Scientists lift freeze on controversial flu research
by Staff Writers
Paris (AFP) Jan 23, 2013

Scientists who created a mutant bird flu virus said Wednesday they will resume the controversial research after taking a 12-month break to allay fears of the bug escaping the lab or falling into terrorist hands.

Citing a "public health responsibility" to continue the work, the teams said research will resume in countries whose governments had given the go-ahead, but not in the United States, which is mulling safety guidelines, nor at US-sponsored research projects in other countries.

"We declare an end to the voluntary moratorium on avian-flu transmission studies," said an announcement published jointly in the US-based journal Science and its British counterpart Nature and signed by 40 scientists from research institutions in a dozen countries.

Teams in the United States and the Netherlands announced in December 2011 they had engineered a hybrid of the H5N1 bird flu virus that was transmissible by air among mammals -- in this case ferrets, which are considered a good research model for humans.

Publication of their results was delayed by months and their work halted for a year amid concerns that terrorists may lay their hands on the data.

"We fully acknowledge that this research -- as with any work on infectious agents -- is not without risks," the scientists wrote Wednesday, following extensive consultation with intelligence, health and security agencies.

"However, because the risk exists in nature that an H5N1 virus capable of transmission in mammals may emerge, the benefits of this work outweigh the risks."

In its current form, the virus spreads easily among poultry and wild birds but is hard to transmit to humans. It is even harder to pass on from human to human, which has only happened in isolated cases.

The virus is deadly in humans -- killing 360 out of 610 people infected from 2003 to date, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Humans mainly contract the virus by handling live or dead infected birds, and there is no evidence of contamination from eating properly cooked poultry.

The scientists' work highlighted the risk of the virus evolving naturally to cause a pandemic in which it can be spread easily from human to human.

The research seeks to create models to enable us to deal with a potential human outbreak.

Papers on the findings were published by Nature and Science in May and June last year.

In January a year ago, the scientists announced a voluntary 60-day research pause, which was later extended.

They said they would use the time to explain the public health benefits of their work and put in place additional measures to minimise risk while governments review policies on biosecurity and oversight.

"All the conditions for which the moratorium was initially installed have been met," study leader Ron Fouchier from the Erasmus Medical Centre in the Netherlands told a telephone press conference on Wednesday.

"We can conduct these experiments safely," insisted his colleague Hoshi hiro Kawaoka from the University of Tokyo, Japan, warning that the virus continues to mutate in nature.

"The greater risk is not doing research that could help us be better equipped to deal with a pandemic."

But the teams said research should not restart in countries where no decision had been taken on the conditions for H5N1 research.

This meant the United States, which is in the process of drawing up guidelines, but it would also affect US-funded work in other countries -- including Kawaoka's research in Japan and a part of Fouchier's Dutch-based project.

The scientists could not specify which other countries were hosting related H5N1 research.

In an editorial comment, Nature said the debate had exposed gaps in the rules for so-called "dual-use research" -- which holds public benefits but also a risk of abuse.

"The lifting of the moratorium by researchers must not be seen as closure of the debate," it wrote. "The potential risks of the work demand exceptional precautions in any future research."

The WHO, which in February issued safety recommendations for H5N1 research, said laboratories have since expanded their security systems.

Requirements for lifting the moratorium had been "satisfied", John McCauley, director of the WHO Collaborating Centre for Reference and Research on Influenza, said in a statement.


Related Links
Epidemics on Earth - Bird Flu, HIV/AIDS, Ebola

Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

US flu epidemic worsens, 29 children dead
Washington (AFP) Jan 18, 2013
A flu epidemic gripping the United States is more severe than usual, striking the elderly especially hard, health authorities said Friday as they also announced 29 child victims. With the nation only about halfway through the season, complications are likely to worsen for those who caught the flu, said Tom Frieden, chief of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "We expect to se ... read more

Canada to resettle up to 5,000 Iranian, Iraqi refugees

China factory fire hidden by thick smog: media

Allianz sticks to profit goal despite Hurricane Sandy hit

Hannover Re hit by 261-million-euro loss from Sandy

Researchers move Barkhausen Effect forward

Computer breakthrough: Code of life becomes databank

Kim Dotcom apologises for Mega bugs

World's Most Complex 2D Laser Beamsteering Array Demonstrated

Water shut off to Chilean capital: official

Cotton with special coating collects water from fogs in desert

Antibacterial agent used in common soaps found in increasing amounts in freshwater lakes

Rare dolphin species threatened by big fishnets

Penguin head-cam captures bird's eye view of hunt

Melt ponds cause the Artic sea ice to melt more rapidly

New Antarctic geological timeline aids future sea-level predictions

Russian national park to bridge US-Russia divide

USDA Studies Confirm Plant Water Demands Shift with Water Availability

First Global Assessment of Land and Water 'Grabbing'

Cotton could be desert water source

EU freezes approval of GM crops to 2014

Mozambique begins evacuating 55,000 people hit by floods

Unrestricted access to the details of deadly eruptions

Floods ease in Jakarta, at least 11 dead

Eleven dead, two missing as floods swamp central Jakarta

Eritrean troops besiege mutineers in Asmara

Mugabe calls for peace as VP Nkomo buried

Hollande, in Gulf, defends France's Mali offensive

French marines in Mali wait for orders to join the fight

Four-stranded 'quadruple helix' DNA structure proven to exist in human cells

Geneticist wants to revive Neanderthals

DNA database not so anonymous on the Internet: study

Chimpanzees successfully play the Ultimatum Game

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2014 - Space Media Network. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement