WHO Group Keeps Lid On Bird Flu Lab Results – For Now

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A group of public health experts gathered by the World Health Organization agreed today to continue a temporary moratorium on research done on the H5N1 bird flu virus modified in a laboratory to be more transmissible between mammals. But they said research should continue on the naturally occurring version of the virus.

The closed door meeting took place at WHO on 16-17 February.

Concern arose recently when it became known that research groups in the Netherlands and the United States have “created versions of the H5N1 influenza virus which are more transmissible in mammals than the H5N1 virus that occurs naturally,” as WHO put it, leading the health agency to convene the group.

The group consisted of various interested parties – including the researchers, the funders of the research, publications that want to profit from publishing the research, the countries that provided the viruses, bioethicists, and directors from several WHO “collaborating-center laboratories specializing in influenza,” WHO said. Publication of the manuscripts of the research will be delayed.

More meetings will be held in the future. It is expected that they will agree to publish the research later this year, according to sources.

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Comments

  1. Riaz K Tayob says

    This is just power politics. Even the contributions of viruses that developing countries routinely make to WHO are captured in databases on the evolution of the virus in certain labs approved by WHO. Access to these databases is proprietary, whereas they are derived from “free” donations of protected biodiversity of developing countries. How can regional capacity be developed for vaccines when this kind of imbalance is apparent in the world system (that a tracking system of donations does not even deal with)?

    When WHO was caught with its pants down allowing companies to expropriate developing country knowledge from viruses in contravention of its own guidelines, it simply removed them from its website. This is the balance and fairness from impartial civil servants…

    And if a developing country health minister makes a conspiratorial point, that biological weapons are possibility (she may have been over the top, but not far off the mark as things go) polite sensible opinion dismissed her as a freak.

    One wonders at the advice WHO receives when IPR matters were pulled to the highest levels of the WHO governance structure… when will poor people matter for WHO that tips its hat defering to the WTO and WIPO as a UN agency but at least on Human Rights Rapporteurs show now such feudal deference…

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