Scientists lift the veto super virus H5N1

August 29, 2013 – 01:54

Researchers from eight countries lifted the moratorium that prevented them investigate variants of avian influenza transmissible between mammals

More news from: bioterrorism , flu , H5N1 , science policy , virus

A laboratory with BSL 3 safety level Enlarge A laboratory with BSL 3 safety level. / NJSM

Forty researchers from eight countries have now lifted the moratorium that prevented them from investigating with the controversial super virus of influenza . It is a variant of avian influenza H5N1 that is able to be transmitted between mammals and therefore could trigger a human pandemic.

The virus starred last year in the most famous case of scientific censorship in recent years when U.S. government experts recommended not be published scientific studies on the subject . In January 2012, the two companies that led the study of this pathogen, one in USA and one in the Netherlands, decided reluctantly research cripple the virus until they are revised safety standards for handling these pathogens. Over a year later, the U.S. still mired in the drafting of the new rules and the patience of researchers over.

"The benefits of studying the super virus outweigh the risks, " says an expert

"How long will it take? They can be one, two, three years, how much longer should we wait? ", Has protested today Ron Fouchier, a researcher from Erasmus Medical Center Rotterdam. Fouchier leads the group of 40 influenza researchers have decided to lift the moratorium, which, for practical purposes allowed back to work with the super-virus in laboratories with adequate security measures.

In these centers "take a kind of spacesuit there is always a constant barrier between the virus and you and also you are vaccinated, " Fouchier said today in a press conference to announce the decision. The expert says his laboratory in the Netherlands is completely safe to restart the investigation with these pathogens.

After today's decision, "Holland can re-investigate this virus and the other EU countries, " said Fouchier. According to the team of scientists, Canada and China also could. Indeed, the U.S. is the only country that explicitly left out of this research until the country ends to reformulate its security measures, a process being monitored terrorism advisers of President Barack Obama. Teams are paralyzed also receive U.S. funding.

USA is the only country that explicitly left out of this research

"Studies on the risk of these pathogens is not an exact science, but 40 experts from around the world on this issue believe that the benefits of doing so outweigh the risks, " said Fouchier, knowing that the measure is controversial and not all specialists in this field are with him.

Fouchier received U.S. funding to investigate how a bird flu virus that could only be transmitted between birds and mammals could jump to catch each other. In late 2011, his team showed that five mutations are sufficient for an avian virus can be transmitted among mammals (ferrets specifically). The Dutch researcher discovery, along with other very similar Yosihiro Kawaoka lab in the U.S., frightened the U.S. authorities and led to an international rethinking security measures to use these viruses.


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