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.

  • ed.rybicki - 2012-01-01 11:24

    The sad thing about all this hand-wringing over whether one SHOULD do the research which leads to our understanding of this very dangerous virus, is that the virus continues to mutate out there in the world. It is endemic in Indonesia, southern China, Vietnam and possibly Egypt - and it does not need permission to do anything. Another fact people seem to be missing is that it takes a high degree of skill, and a lot of backup in terms of equipment and money, to make this virus artificially - so that only large research institutions have the capability. And most of them would not contemplate making novel variants of the virus, let alone releasing them.

  • Johana - 2012-01-01 18:10

    Oh, no! Quickly, create vaccine and sell it on inflated prices to the corrupt governments, otherwise this virus can kill as much as "swine virus" - even more than 10 people. Who cares about regular flu virus that kills 100s of thousands every year.

      Chum Scrubber - 2012-01-02 06:35

      Ja, I think they create the WHO ha to keep themsleves relevant, keep the funds flowing. Like 300 odd humans died over a period of 5 years from bird flu, out of a population of 7 billion. I think a lot more died from lightning strikes! All the effort seems a waste to me, just a bit odd. Like a Y2K hoax.

  • goyougoodthing - 2012-01-01 19:07

    These epidemics are made to inoculate the masses with dodgy substances.

  • paul.prinsloo3 - 2012-01-02 12:22

    We knew Holland had been behind the development and mutational capabilities of the H5N1 virus. There had actually been an article pupblished about it on FB very recently. In it, it is claimed that the Hollanders gor scared of their own project and that the virus (which apparently is incontainable) had been placed in secure holders in the basement of a university in Holland. (The article was on FB under the title "Virus that can destroy all live on earth". Now how did the Americans become involved? Why do they want (unles they want to commit suicide or control the world)the virus to mutate faster in order to kill faster? How are do the designers of this virus intent saveguarding themselves and their loveones against it, because in the previous article it claimed the the sprading of the virus was uncontrolable? Something very suspicious going on here.

  • ludlowdj - 2012-01-03 14:25

    The first law of scientific research especially in this field is that no matter how hard you try, living organisms will never be controllable or isolate-able. if you create something, whether it be a deadly virus or a miracle cure, it will find a way to escape into the "wild" and multiply. The simple act of creating a migrating virus guarantees that within a few years it will be found in the wild, man is fairly much creating his own demise.

  • max.maxwell - 2012-02-05 10:16

    When one looks at the pandemic of 1918, one realises just how deadly this virus could become! Any research that helps us understand how 1t could mutate into a form that is redily transmissible between humans must be encouraged. However I also believe that traditional ways of attacking the spread of viruses are outdated. Perhaps researchers should be looking at ways to attack the virus in the hosts now, before it jumps to humans, by looking at genetically modified phages or something similar?

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