The United Nations health agency today voiced deep concern on research research on the H5N1 influenza (bird flu) virus’ human transmissibility.
World Health Organization (WHO)said in a statement that potential risks may linked to this research.
However, WHO acknowledged that tightly-controlled studies needed to continue to limit the possibility of future risks to the global population. The UN agency also (WHO) warned that recent studies on whether changes to the H5N1 strain of avian influenza could make it more transmissible between humans might lead to “possible risks and misuses.”
Recent media reports have noted that, if published, details of the research could provide bio-terrorists with crucial information on how to mutate the virus into a deadlier, human-to-human transmissible form.
“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.” – WHO statement
WHO also urged all research teams to fully abide by the regulations set out in the new Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Framework.
The bird flu virus, with its possible mutation into a deadly human pandemic, remains a potent threat around the world.
While the H5N1 Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza virus was eliminated from most of the 63 countries infected at its peak in 2006, it remained endemic in six nations. Outbreaks have risen since then, with almost 800 cases recorded between 2010 and 2011.
Since 2003 the H5N1 virus has killed or forced the culling of more than 400 million domestic poultry and caused an estimated $20 billion of economic damage across the globe before it was eliminated from most of the 63 infected countries.
It has infected 565 people since it first appeared, killing 331 of them, according to the UN World Health Organization (WHO). The latest death occurred earlier this month in Cambodia, which has registered eight cases of human infection this year – all of them fatal.