WHO releases proposed guidelines for research involving H5N1

The World Health Organization (WHO), issued a “Guidance for adoption of appropriate risk control measures to conduct safe research on H5N1 transmission”, available here.  The proposed considerations are:

  1. Facilities wishing to work with the laboratory-modified H5N1 should critically evaluate the considerable personal and institutional responsibilities inherent in manipulating influenza viruses with pandemic potential that are not presently circulating in nature.

 2. Only laboratories that meet the appropriate biosafety level AND show conformity to available biorisk management standards (e.g. CWA 15793) should consider working with these laboratory-modified H5N1 strains, in close collaboration and communication with relevant national authorities, and under strict national oversight.

 3. Relevant national authorities should identify, approve and oversee the laboratories which might work on this material.

 4. Biosafety and laboratory biosecurity considerations should be taken into account in reviews of research findings scheduled for publication.

 5. Final responsibility for the identification and implementation of appropriate risk assessment, mitigation, and containment measures for work with laboratory-modified H5N1 strains lies with individual countries and facilities. Accordingly, measures may vary from country to country, and decisions should be taken in light of currently available knowledge, context, and applicable national requirements.

 6. Given the potential of these newly developed laboratory-modified H5N1 strains to start a pandemic, it is important that facilities that are NOT able to identify and appropriately control the risks associated with these agents REFRAIN from working with them.

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