Two-Day WHO Meeting On Bird Flu To Release Statement As Soon As Possible, WHO Official Says

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).

“We’re very aware that there’s a lot of interest in the meeting and that people will want to know, you know, what were the issues that were discussed and did you come to any consensus. … So we will try to make that as clear as possible as quickly as possible,” Keiji Fukuda, WHO assistant director-general for health security and environment, said prior to the meeting, NPR’s “Shots” reports (Greenfieldboyce, 2/17). BBC News reports that Bruce Alberts, editor of Science, one of the journals asked to redact the research upon publication, “has said he is prepared to publish full details of [the research], unless progress is made on how to circulate details of the findings to scientists” (Ghosh, 2/16). An analysis piece in Science examines how research into bird flu, and sharing of the findings, may be able to improve surveillance and control systems for the disease (Cohen/Normile, 2/17).