Scientists debate bird flu studies at WHO

February 16, 2012

Scientists met behind closed doors in Geneva Thursday to discuss whether controversial research on a mutant form of bird flu capable of being spread among humans can be made public.

The two-day gathering at the (WHO) was called to discuss the studies on the which halted on January 20, citing fears of devastation if it were to escape the laboratory.

The WHO is expected to report on any decision made at the meeting late Friday.

The 22 participants include the two teams of researchers and representatives of the scientific journals Science and Nature who were asked to withhold publication.

"Participants will discuss the specific circumstances and results of the two studies and will try to reach a consensus about practical actions to resolve the most urgent issues, particularly those related to access to and dissemination of the results of these research studies," the WHO said.

Avian influenza H5N1 is primarily transmitted between birds and very rarely to humans.

Two separate teams of researchers, one in the Netherlands and the other in the United States, found ways late last year to engineer the virus so that it could be transmitted among mammals.

The breakthrough raised alarm that the method could fall into the wrong hands and unleash a massive that could cost millions of lives.

In November the US National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB) urged that key details remain unpublished.

Flu researchers agreed in January to halt their studies for 60 days in order to allow for international debate on the matter.

Explore further: Health experts, scientists to discuss bird flu studies

Related Stories

Bird flu researchers agree to 60-day halt (Update 2)

January 20, 2012

International scientists on Friday agreed to a temporary two-month halt to controversial research on a bird flu virus that may be easily passed among humans, citing global health concerns.

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.

Recommended for you

Zika virus infection alters human and viral RNA

October 20, 2016

Researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine have discovered that Zika virus infection leads to modifications of both viral and human genetic material. These modifications—chemical tags known as ...

Food-poisoning bacteria may be behind Crohn's disease

October 19, 2016

People who retain a particular bacterium in their gut after a bout of food poisoning may be at an increased risk of developing Crohn's disease later in life, according to a new study led by researchers at McMaster University.

Neurodevelopmental model of Zika may provide rapid answers

October 19, 2016

A newly published study from researchers working in collaboration with the Regenerative Bioscience Center at the University of Georgia demonstrates fetal death and brain damage in early chick embryos similar to microcephaly—a ...

Scientists uncover new facets of Zika-related birth defects

October 17, 2016

In a study that could one day help eliminate the tragic birth defects caused by Zika virus, scientists from the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have elucidated how the virus attacks the brains of newborns, ...


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.