Wednesday, June 27, 2012

H5N1 transmission moratorium to expire soon?

Two studies done last year on the creating mammalian transmissible H5N1 influenza caused an uproar over the last 6+ months and led to a self imposed cessation of research into the transmission of highly pathogenic avian influenza in mammals. Originally the research ban was to last 60 days and give the public, government, and research community time to digest the findings and come to a consensus on how to regulate this potentially dangerous research.

Sixty days came and went and the moratorium continued. 120 days passed and still no discussion of ending the ban.  The White House issued a new directive to identify, categorize, and adopt strategies to deal with all current and future dangerous research and the ban went on.  Recently both studies that instigated this controversy have been published and yet the ban continues.
More than 5 months have passed since research into understanding and preparing for these viruses stopped. All the while the threats, both real (natural virus endemic in 6 countries and continuously evolving) and hypothetical (the nebulous terrorists), that the prohibitted research promises to protect against continue to exist.

However, recent chatter suggests the ban may be nearing an end soon. Some participants in the moratorium believe the conditions of ending the ban have been met.  The original research has been published, new improved and more comprehensive guidelines have been established, and governmental funding agencies are now playing a more central role in vetting the research and disseminating the results. Is it time for the research to restart?

Dr. Anthony Fauci
Anthony Fauci, the director of the NIAID, appears to be an advocate of resuming the work sooner, rather than later. Later this next many of the moratorium signers will be gathered in New York for the annual Centers of Excellence for Influenza Research and Surveillance (CEIRS) meeting. Dr. Fauci will be in attendance and plans to address the ban issue while there and hopefully come to a resolution and conclusion.

“I can’t say that the moratorium will officially end then, but we are certainly going to address the topic at that meeting,” says Fauci, “to get some research going on an interim basis.”

Dangerous terrorist? As far as flu is concerned, yes.

Hopefully this discussion will lead to and least a partial end to the ban.  The virus is still present in many parts of the world and is still evolving as you read this. The virus already has some human virus like characteristic and could continue in that directions, especially in places like Egypt and Indonesia. Our best defense against this is research. Let's take the handcuffs off and get back to work.

I will be in attendance at the CEIRS meeting and would be very pleased if the moratorium would end there. Either way I will update what I learn on the subject next month.

No comments:

Post a Comment