WHO To Take Lead Role In Addressing Controversial Bird Flu Research, Official Says
“The World Health Organization says it will take a role in helping sort through an international scientific controversy over two bird flu studies that the U.S. government deemed too dangerous to publish in full,” the Canadian Press/Winnipeg Free Press reports. Keiji Fukuda, the WHO’s assistant director-general for health security and environment, on Sunday in an interview with the Canadian Press “said the agency will pull together international talks aimed at fleshing out the issues that need to be addressed and then work to resolve them.” On the advice of the National Science Advisory Board on Biosecurity (NSABB), the journals Science and Nature “have grudgingly agreed to abbreviate the papers, leaving out the details of how the work was done,” according to the news service.
“When the journals agreed not to publish the papers in full, they did so on the proviso that a system be set up that allows the technical details of the work to be shared with other scientists and perhaps public health authorities on a need-to-know basis,” but when “[a]sked if the WHO would be taking on the responsibility for running such a system, which would involve vetting applications to see the work, Fukuda suggested that would be outside the agency’s scope,” the news service writes. While the journals are expected to publish the papers later this month, “putting together the system to decide who can see the full works and how the details can be safely shared may take several months,” the Canadian Press reports (Branswell, 1/15).