WHO 'deeply concerned' by mutant bird flu

2011-12-31 21:06

Paris - The World Health Organisation (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 H5N1 avian influenza so it could pass easily between mammals.

Two top scientific journals 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 influenza 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 negative consequences.

"However, WHO also notes that studies conducted under appropriate conditions must continue to take place so that critical scientific knowledge needed to reduce the risks posed by the H5N1 virus 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% 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% 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.

Read more on:    who  |  avian flu

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

linking and moving

2015-04-22 07:36

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Millions of plastic particles in our food!

Scientists and researchers believe that almost five million tons of plastic is dumped in the oceans every year and it’s affecting our food.



Plastic on your plate
Prince George the green prince?
Lean, green, drifiting machine
One man's $1 million vision for an eco Africa

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts

Trying to keep time for your social commitments and friendships as well as taking care of work and health obligations can be a...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.