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Research is key for pandemic preparedness

Paris, 29 March 2012 – The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) invited world renowned animal influenza experts to provide their views relating to the moratorium on H5N1 transmission studies as outlined at the “Technical consultation on H5N1 research issues” held in Geneva earlier this year. That moratorium followed submissions for publication of research studies on the transmissibility of influenza A H5N1 viruses.

Animal health researchers are currently working to discover the factors that may increase risk of pathogens to both animal and human health. Influenza transmission studies in animals may help timely preparation of both animal and human vaccines effectively protecting against new virus strains.  

While discussing the events that have led to the moratorium and the possible impacts of the decisions on the virus transmission studies, the experts consulted by the OIE also highlighted the importance of close collaboration between veterinary and public health communities when addressing these issues. It is indeed important to promote research that identifies gaps in knowledge relevant to pandemic preparedness, including effective surveillance of animal populations for the emergence of influenza viruses of potential concern. Influenza viruses isolated from animals in the field or in laboratories should always be submitted to OIE reference institutions for analysis.

“In order to achieve their objectives, scientists often need to store and manipulate infectious agents. A goal of scientific research is to find effective ways to prevent, control and eradicate pathogens that are dangerous for both animals and humans, thus making the world a safer place” said the Director General of the OIE, Dr Bernard Vallat commenting on the OIE experts’ discussion.

Effective bio-risk management and compliance with national and international standards and regulations in laboratories and elsewhere should be respected while avoiding disproportionally risk-averse actions.

“The OIE believes that it is most important that biological material and information be shared between scientists and with the international community without undue barriers, whilst respecting all biosafety measures and acknowledging the efforts of all contributors”, Dr Vallat added.

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