Researchers of H5N1 bird flu virus “are set to wrap up a two-day meeting on the issue Friday with international experts at the World Health Organization in Geneva” with the aim of settling controversy over the work of two research teams that created genetically altered viral strains that are easily transmissible among ferrets, a laboratory model for humans, the Associated Press reports (Mason, 2/17). “The meeting may reach some consensus on a few immediate issues, such as what parts of the studies should be published, and who might qualify for access to the full papers on a ‘need-to-know’ basis,” according to the Nature News Blog (Butler, 2/16).
Pneumonia & Flu
“Details of a genetically altered strain of the deadly avian flu virus are ‘a grave concern’ to public safety and should be kept under wraps,” the 23-member National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity declared Tuesday “[i]n a letter released by the journals Science (.pdf) and Nature,” CNN reports (1/31). “The board explains that its main concern was that publishing the experiments in detail could help someone to develop viruses for harmful purposes,” BBC News writes, adding, “But it acknowledges the work holds ‘clear benefits’ in alerting humanity to the potential H5N1 threat, and that it could lead to greater preparation and potential development of novel strategies for disease control” (Walsh, 1/31).
Health System Funding Can Address ‘Silent Killers’ “For too long, global health funding has gone to diseases like AIDS with the most vocal lobby groups and not to the diseases with the greatest need,” Philip Stevens, a senior fellow at International Policy Network, writes in a Business Daily opinion piece.…
Ahead of the anticipated CDC release of revised U.S. H1N1 (swine flu) death toll estimates, Reuters examines how the agency and WHO measure the impact of the virus, after both organizations “stopped trying to count actual cases months ago, once it became clear that H1N1 was a pandemic that would infect millions.”
On Thursday, the WHO issued revised guidance for the clinical management of H1N1 (swine) flu, the Associated Press reports. According to the AP, the WHO “says doctors shouldn’t wait for lab confirmation before giving anti-viral drugs to pregnant women and other at-risk groups with suspected swine flu” (11/12).
Representatives of African countries are meeting in Abuja this week to discuss the procurement and distribution of the H1N1 (swine flu) vaccine, the Daily Trust/allAfrica.com reports (Rabiu, 11/23).
U.S. health officials briefing Congress on Wednesday would not outline a timeframe for when enough H1N1 (swine flu) vaccines would be available to reach all high-risk populations in the country, the Washington Post reports.
“Two million of the world’s poorest children could be saved by introducing routine vaccination programs against diarrhea and pneumonia,” according to a new report (.pdf) from UNICEF, BBC News reports (6/8). “Pneumonia and diarrhea account for nearly one-third of the deaths among children under five globally,” the Guardian writes, adding, “Nearly 90 percent of deaths from pneumonia and diarrhea occur in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia” (Tran, 6/8). The report “identifies a tremendous opportunity to narrow the child survival gap both among and within countries by increasing commitment, attention and funding,” according to a press release from UNICEF (6/8).
Noting that the journal Science last week published the second of two controversial bird flu research papers, in which a team led by Ron Fouchier of the Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam created a mutated strain of the virus that spreads easily among ferrets, a Washington Post editorial writes that “this is not the end of the story. Rather, it marks the beginning of an important chapter for both science and security.” The editorial continues, “The United States and other nations need a more sophisticated process for vetting research for possible security threats without discouraging or impairing scientists,” adding, “This is more difficult than it sounds.”
Congressman 'Dissatisfied' With Handling Of Controversial H5N1 Papers Calls For Cohesive Policy For Handling 'Risky' Research
“[D]issatisfied with the government’s handling of two research papers on mutant forms of avian influenza,” Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.) on Wednesday “said that the lack of a cohesive policy for handling risky research funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other federal agencies could necessitate new laws, a situation that researchers have been trying to avoid,” the Nature News Blog reports. “The second of the controversial papers showing that H5N1, or ‘bird flu,’ can spread through the air between mammals was published last week, providing some closure to the months-long debate about the work and whether its publication would result in the proliferation of dangerous viruses and increased risk of an accidental or intentional release,” the blog writes, adding, “Sensenbrenner says not enough work has been done to ensure that such controversies don’t arise again.”