Wednesday, April 18, 2007

China hoarding H5N1 samples for over a year: WHO

HONG KONG (Reuters) - China has not shared any human H5N1 bird flu samples with WHO-accredited laboratories for over a year, sparking renewed fears that it may be frustrating efforts to track changes in the virus and find ways to fight it.

But Henk Bekedam, WHO’s representative in China, said the Chinese had shared their scientific analyses of virus samples taken from human victims in the past year, and there was no evidence the H5N1 had mutated significantly in a dangerous way.

“The whole notion about urgency (of sharing) is still there ... but at the same time, the virus is not changing into something that is easily transmissible between humans,” he said.

China last shared human H5N1 samples with WHO collaborating laboratories in April 2006 and the country has since reported five more human infections.

The WHO had asked a few times for samples of three of these, Bekedam said, and he was confident they would be shipped soon.

On animal H5N1 samples, Bekedam said WHO was trying to get Beijing to share viruses that were more recent China’s Ministry of Agriculture last shipped animal H5N1 samples to WHO laboratories in November 2006, but these were viruses isolated in 2004 and 2005.

“We are negotiating if we can get viruses from 2006 and we hope we would be getting them soon,” Bekedam said.

Viruses change constantly and fast, and in the case of the H5N1, experts stress the importance of timely sharing of samples to check if it has developed resistance to drugs or if it has become more transmissible among people.

Bird flu story source: Reuters

Posted by john T. on 04/18 at 03:18 AM
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