Scientists debate bird flu studies at WHO

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In November the US National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB) urged that key details remain unpublished.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

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

US official says bird flu limits not 'censorship'

Dec 21, 2011

Leading US health official Anthony Fauci on Wednesday rejected claims that the United States is censoring science by seeking to limit potentially dangerous bird flu information in major journals.

Killer flu virus threat over-hyped: Dutch scientist

Dec 21, 2011

A top Dutch scientist heading a team which created a mutant killer flu virus Wednesday said the threat to global biosecurity is being overplayed, even if full research results are published.

WHO 'deeply concerned' by mutant bird flu

Dec 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

Overwhelmed west Africa ramps up Ebola response

8 hours ago

West Africa intensified its response to the deadly Ebola epidemic on Sunday, with Sierra Leone uncovering scores of dead bodies during a 72-hour shutdown and Liberia announcing hundreds of new hospital beds.

Sierra Leone reaches final day of Ebola lockdown

12 hours ago

Frustrated residents complained of food shortages in some neighborhoods of Sierra Leone's capital on Sunday as the country reached the third and final day of a sweeping, unprecedented lockdown designed to ...

Sierra Leone faces criticism over Ebola shutdown

Sep 20, 2014

Sierra Leone began the second day of a 72-hour nationwide shutdown aimed at containing the spread of the deadly Ebola virus on Saturday amid criticism that the action was a poorly planned publicity stunt.

Presence of peers ups health workers' hand hygiene

Sep 19, 2014

(HealthDay)—The presence of other health care workers improves hand hygiene adherence, according to a study published in the October issue of Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology.

User comments