WHO 'deeply concerned' by mutant bird flu

December 31, 2011

The World Health Organization (WHO) said it was "deeply concerned" about research into whether the H5N1 flu virus could be made more transmissible between humans after mutant strains were produced in labs.

Two separate research teams -- one in the Netherlands and the other in the United States -- separately found ways to alter the so it could pass easily between .

Two top said Tuesday they were mulling whether to publish full details on how Dutch scientists mutated the H5N1 flu virus in order for it to pass from one mammal to another.

Scientists fear H5N1 will mutate into a form readily transmissible between humans, with the potential to cause millions of deaths.

"The WHO takes note that studies undertaken by several institutions on whether changes in the H5N1 virus can make it more transmissible between humans have raised concern about the possible risks and misuses associated with this research," The Geneva-based United Nations body said.

"WHO is also deeply concerned about the potential .

"However, WHO also notes that studies conducted under appropriate conditions must continue to take place so that critical needed to reduce the risks posed by the continues to increase."

The WHO said research which could improve the understanding of such viruses was a scientific and public health imperative.

"While it is clear that conducting research to gain such knowledge must continue, it is also clear that certain research, and especially that which can generate more dangerous forms of the virus than those which already exist, has risks.

"Therefore such research should be done only after all important public health risks and benefits have been identified and reviewed, and it is certain that the necessary protections to minimize the potential for negative consequences are in place."

The H5N1 strain of avian influenza is fatal in 60 percent of human cases but only 350 people have so far died from the disease, largely because it cannot, yet, be transmitted between humans.

Indonesia has been the worst-hit country. Most human infections are the result of direct contact with infected birds.

In people it can cause fever, coughing, a sore throat, pneumonia, respiratory disease and, in about 60 percent of cases, death.

China is considered one of the nations most at risk of bird flu epidemics because it has the world's biggest poultry population and many chickens in rural areas are kept close to humans.

A man is in critical condition after testing positive for the H5N1 virus in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen, state media said Saturday.

Related Stories

Hong Kong culls chickens to battle bird flu

December 21, 2011

Hong Kong culled 17,000 chickens Wednesday and suspended live poultry imports for 21 days after three birds tested positive for the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu virus.

Chinese man critical with bird flu

December 30, 2011

A man is in critical condition after testing positive for the deadly H5N1 bird flu virus in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen, state media said Saturday.

WHO: Bird flu research raises safety questions

December 30, 2011

(AP) -- The World Health Organization is warning that dangerous scientific information could fall into the wrong hands after U.S. government-funded researchers engineered a form of the deadly H5N1 bird flu virus more easily ...

Recommended for you

Experimental MERS vaccine shows promise in animal studies

July 28, 2015

A two-step regimen of experimental vaccines against Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) prompted immune responses in mice and rhesus macaques, report National Institutes of Health scientists who designed the vaccines. ...

Can social isolation fuel epidemics?

July 21, 2015

Conventional wisdom has it that the more people stay within their own social groups and avoid others, the less likely it is small disease outbreaks turn into full-blown epidemics. But the conventional wisdom is wrong, according ...

Lack of knowledge on animal disease leaves humans at risk

July 20, 2015

Researchers from the University of Sydney have painted the most detailed picture to date of major infectious diseases shared between wildlife and livestock, and found a huge gap in knowledge about diseases which could spread ...

IBD genetically similar in Europeans and non-Europeans

July 20, 2015

The first genetic study of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) to include individuals from diverse populations has shown that the regions of the genome underlying the disease are consistent around the world. This study, conducted ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.