News / USA

WHO Recommends Continued Research of Lethal Bird Flu Strain

Health department officials and volunteers wear protective gear and cull birds in an effort to check for bird flu, at a poultry farm at Keranga village in Khurda district, India, January 13, 2012.
Health department officials and volunteers wear protective gear and cull birds in an effort to check for bird flu, at a poultry farm at Keranga village in Khurda district, India, January 13, 2012.
Jessica Berman

A panel of the World Health Organization has recommended that research continue on a potentially lethal strain of bird flu so that scientists can better understand how the virus might trigger a global pandemic. The decision follows a U.S. government appeal last December to two scientific journals that they NOT publish key details of a federally-funded experiment that created new, more infectious strains of the deadly bird flu virus.

The H5N1 avian influenza virus originated in poultry flocks in Asia. While it has rarely infected humans, the illness carries a 60 percent mortality rate.    

Scientists at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and the Erasmus University Medical Center in the Netherlands engineered a more virulent strain of the H5N1 bird flu to try to understand how mutations could make it more infectious to both animal and human populations - a change that could lead to a global pandemic.

But a U.S. government panel on biosecurity, concerned that the mutated virus could fall into the hands of bioterrorists, asked two leading scientific magazines - Science and the British journal Nature - not to publish sensitive details of the work.

The magazines agreed and in January, the scientists voluntarily halted their research for 60 days.

In Geneva, the World Health Organization convened an emergency meeting of 20 scientists and public health experts to discuss the issue.  Assistant Director-General for Health, Security and Environment, Keiji Fukuda said participants concluded there is ample justification for continuing the scientific research:

“In really helping us to understand better how these H5N1 viruses work, and also what are some of the changes we ought to be looking for out there in the real world, in terms of trying to keep on top of these viruses, which are becoming more dangerous in terms of causing a pandemic,” said Fukuda.

But Fukuda said the panel also agreed the research moratorium ought to continue for now, until all public health risks and benefits, as well as security fears, have been fully identified and addressed.

Fukuda stressed the research is being carried out in secure laboratory facilities, with little risk to the public.

The WHO panel also recommended that Science and Nature, for the time being, refrain from publishing articles about the research. The editors of Science said Friday they will honor the request.

Bruce Alberts, editor-in-chief of Science, said as a result of the work by the American and Dutch scientists, researchers now know how easy it is for the H5N1 virus to mutate, increasing the risk of a global pandemic.

“There’s every reason to suspect that in the natural environment, there will be such a [mutated] virus emerging. I mean millions of birds - I don’t know whether birds sneeze - but obviously the virus will spread better in birds, as well as better in people, if it can be transferred through aerosols.”

The WHO panel is recommending that research on the genetically engineered H5N1 virus be shared with scientists in all countries so they can begin developing drugs and vaccines, should a serious outbreak or pandemic of this deadly form of avian flu ever come to pass.


You May Like

On Everest, Helicopters Rescue Stranded Climbers

Choppers transport some of more than 100 mountaineers trapped after deadly quake, avalanches More

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

In 2005, a Paris suburb exploded into violence after two teenagers were electrocuted as they hid from police; since then, somethings have changed, others not More

US, Japan Announce Historic Revision of Defense Cooperation Guidelines

Nations say new guidelines will be 'cornerstone for peace and security' in Asia-Pacific region while also serving as 'platform for a more stable international security environment' More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europei
X
Henry Ridgwell
April 26, 2015 10:36 PM
Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video ‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europe

Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

January’s terrorist attacks and fears of more to come are casting a spotlight on France’s neglected suburbs. Home to many immigrants, and sometimes hubs of crime, they were rocked by rioting a decade ago. Lisa Bryant visited the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, where the 2005 violence first broke out, and has this report about what has changed and what has not.
Video

Video Gay Marriage Goes Before US Supreme Court

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether gay people have a constitutional right to marriage. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the case could lead to the nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage, or a continuation of the status quo in which individual states decide whether to recognize gay unions.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.

VOA Blogs