Increasing Refugees, Increased Risk of Communicable Diseases

by Alena M. James

Since the start of the Syrian crisis three years ago, refugees have fled to camps in Jordan, Iraq, Turkey, Egypt, and Lebanon. Last week the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported the number of refugees from Syria to Lebanon has passed one million.  According to the report, this influx has stretched Lebanon’s social and economic infrastructure thin in public services such as electricity, water, sanitation services, education, and the public health sector. Tourism, trade, and investment within the country has also decreased significantly. The increase in the population has led to decreased wages among competing workers.  Lebanese residents find themselves struggling financially; while the refugees find themselves struggling to build better lives.

The competition for depleting resources is not the only concern facing both residents and refugees.  A high influx of refugees into any state can lay the ground for increases risk of communicable diseases or outbreaks of emerging infectious diseases. With small Lebanese communities overwhelmed by the drastic increase in the population, public health services struggle to provide adequate health care, antibiotic treatments, immunizations, and other medical aid to those in need. Not only are critical public health services overextended, but the high volume of individuals seeking services creates the ideal transmission grounds for microbial organisms and viral agents.

In overcrowded populations with limited health resources, the risk of spreading diseases is incredibly high and transmission can occur in a variety of mediums. Direct or indirect contact, the release of respiratory droplets, ingestion of contaminated food and water sources, contact with mechanical  or biological vectors are all various modes by which pathogenic agents spread from person to person.

Direct contact occurs from direct exposure to the pathogenic source, for example, when a patient is bit by a rabid dog and develops rabies. Indirect contact occurs via exposure to septic fomites, for example, when an unsterilized syringe is used to dispense a treatment or drug intravenously into a patient.  Respiratory droplets allow illnesses like the common cold, influenza, and measles to spread at a rapid pace through sneezing or coughing on and around others. Ingestion of contaminated water and foods lead to major gastrointestinal complications and other illnesses. Mechanical vectors, like insect bodies, indirectly spread diseases. For example, flies feeding on fecal material can pick up and spread pathogens, via their feet, after landing on a patient’s untreated injury or open wound. Biological vectors like mosquitos transmit viral, bacterial, and other parasitic organisms to patients. The chances of these transmission modes being employed by pathogens remain high among densely packed populations lacking in substantial health care resources.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, there are several diseases that migrants to Lebanon are susceptible to if the proper vaccinations are not sought. Such diseases include Hepatitis A and B, Typhoid, Polio, and Rabies. Refugees from Syria also pose a dangerous risk of transmitting communicable diseases if they have not received proper immunizations before fleeing from their country. Malnourished refugees deprived of food and clean water are at risk of developing weakened immune systems which makes them even more susceptible to virulent pathogens.

Despite the three-year Syrian conflict, many humanitarian workers continue to immunize children against preventable diseases. UNICEF in particular is actively working towards the vaccination of more than 20 million children against Poliomyelitis. Last October, the WHO confirmed at least 10 cases of children infected with Polio in Syria. This past weekend UNICEF re-launched its campaign to help control the spread of this virus among other states impacted by Syrian refugees.  Iraq, Turkey, Jordan also pledged to join the campaign due to the threat of incidences of the virus occurring in their countries.  So far Iraq has reported one case of the disease while the UN has reported 27 cases among Lebanese children.

Approximately 500,000 Syrian refugees to Lebanon have been children–who are at the greatest risk of acquiring polio if no vaccination has been administered. The war in Syria and the displacement of refugees has made it difficult for medical personal to provide vaccinations needed to control the spread of this and other communicable diseases.  The continued fighting in Syria is likely to lead to more bloodshed, the displacement of more refugees, the depletion of public service resources in several states, and the spread of more communicable diseases if efforts to resolve the conflict are not soon reached.


Image Credit: AP Photo/Bilal Hussein

Experts Pre-Game before the 2014 Nuclear Security Summit

By Alena M. James

On March 12, 2014, the “Future of Global Nuclear Security Policy Summit” was held at the Knight Broadcast Studio at the Newseum in Washington DC.  The summit was hosted by National Journal in preparation for the 2014 Nuclear Security being held in The Hague, Netherlands.  Participating in the event was White House Coordinator for Defense Policy, Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction, and Arms Control, Dr. Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall.  Contributing editor of the National Journal, James Kittfield, moderated the event posing questions to Dr. Sherwood-Randall and to a 7 member panel of nuclear security experts.

The experts participating in the summit included Norwegian Ambassador to the US, Kåre R. Aas; Renée Jones-Bos Secretary General, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands; Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government Professor,  Matthew Bunn;  Congressman, Jeff Fortenberry; President and Chief Executive Officer of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Jane Harman; former US Senator, co-chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, Sam Nunn; and William Tobey, Senior Fellow at Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.

The Summit opened with a welcome message from the Senior Vice President of  the National Journal Group Editor, Poppy MacDonald, and was followed by opening remarks from Senator Nunn; who outlined four primary principles that leaders attending the Hague summit should focus on to continue to secure nuclear materials around the globe.

“At the top of my list are four principles.

  1. Nuclear materials security is both a sovereign responsibility and a shared obligation.  Each nation’s security—as well as global security—is only as strong as the weakest link in the chain, and no single nation can present this threat alone.
  2. Accountability and assurances are essential.  It’s not sufficient to just declare, “Trust me.”
  3. Standards and best practices must be implemented by all states, and must cover all weapons-usable nuclear materials, including non-civilian.
  4. Our leaders must get serious about sustaining this focus and this effort, even if the Nuclear Summit process ends after 2016. If the IAEA is given this responsibility, it must be given the clear mandate and the resources to carry it out.”

Dr. Sherwood-Randall kicked off the summit discussion by providing keynote remarks in a moderated interview with Kittfield shortly after. During her interview, Dr. Sherwood-Randall made it clear that the purpose of the upcoming Nuclear Policy Summit would be to focus on the securing of nuclear materials and not on disarmament; where she believes there are other places for that topic to be discussed. Sherwood-Randall also acknowledged that NGOs play a critical role in providing intellectual capital and that there will be a Nuclear Knowledge Summit taking place in Amsterdam as a side event to the Nuclear Security Summit. This particular summit will be used as place to bring NGOs and nuclear security experts together. When asked about her thoughts on the role of Russia in nuclear security talks, Sherwood Randall said that she did not believe that the heightened tensions over the Ukrainian crisis would affect any of the arms control agreements held with Russia. She further noted that the US views Russia as “contributors” to the upcoming summit and is expecting “a constructive summit.”

According to Sherwood-Randall and to the members of the panel, The Nuclear Security Summit will include a variety of events to ensure the summit is constructive. These events include plenary sessions, prerecorded video speeches from leaders outlining their state’s goals, lively policy based discussions, and real-time crisis simulation. Jones-Bos and her fellow panelists believe the implementation of these events will help to actively engage all participants, more so than simply listening to long, boring speeches.

A video recording of the summit can be found here.

Photo by Alena M. James/ Caption: Nuclear Experts Panel (right to left): James Kittfield (moderator), Renée Jones-Bos, William Tobey, Ambassador Kåre R. Aas, Matthew Bunn, Representative Jeff Fortenberry, Sam Nunn, and Jane Harman.

Pandora Report 3.14.14

Editor’s note: As Managing Editor, I know my job is never done because the news never stops. As a social scientist, I know there is always more than one side to any story. As such, before we get into the news roundup for March 14, here are two follow up articles from our report last week.

Mount Sinai Scientists Discover How Marburg Virus Grows in Cells

Last week we learned about BCX4430, a drug that could possibly treat Marburg virus. This week, news coming out of Mount Sinai in New York outlines further research findings on the virus that can lead to greater understanding or possible development of virus inhibitors. The full findings of this research are available at Cell Reports.

Newswise — “A protein that normally protects cells from environmental stresses has been shown to interact Marburg virus VP24, allowing the deadly Marburg virus to live longer and replicate better, according to a cell culture study led by scientists at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. The investigators say that deciphering the molecular details of how Marburg virus and the host protein interact may help in developing inhibitors of the virus.”

Nazi Scientists May Have Plotted Malaria Mosquito Warfare (Redux)

As was pointed out by our eagle-eyed reader Jean Pascal Zanders, there, of course, is disagreement about the supposed Nazi insect weapons program. Jean writes about it on his blog, and GMU Biodefense’s own, Dr. Gregory Koblentz, is incredulous.

National Geographic – “‘Research to assess the threat posed by different biological agents and vectors, such as May’s research on mosquitoes and malaria, is especially hard to categorize as offensive or defensive,’ Koblentz says. ‘Even if May’s intent was offensive, it was very preliminary-many steps away from actually producing a viable insect-borne biological weapon.’”

And now for our regularly scheduled Friday news…

Highlights include Project BioShield, Destruction of Syrian chemical weapons, and  Clostridium difficile with antibiotics. Happy Friday!

The Only Thing Scarier Than Bio-Warfare is the Antidote

Should we be afraid of bio-terror or bio-error? In this massive, front-page Newsweek story, the author looks at the creation of the Project BioShield Act and its resulting effects including the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act and increased availability of biological threat agents used for scientific research. The Soviet bioweapons program, BSL-4 labs, and the intersection of science and government are also addressed.

Newsweek – “Though BioShield’s initial goals made sense when the threat of biological warfare seemed imminent, the act may have permanently undermined some of the essential protections against unsafe practices in at least one area of science research: the regulations that keep untested drugs off the market, and labs from leaking deadly biological agents into the environment.”

Greeks protest against Syria chemical weapon destruction at sea

Under the UN Security Council backed deal to deal to destroy Syria’s chemical weapon arsenal, provisions are included for this to happen aboard a U.S. cargo ship in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.  Under the plan, hydrolysis systems aboard the ship are to mix heated water and other chemicals to break down the lethal agents, resulting in a sludge equivalent to industrial toxic waste. This plan has prompted protests in Italy, Malta, and Greece despite assurances there will be no negative impact on the surrounding environments.

Agence France-Presse – “‘If this happens it will obliterate the island’s economy, will pollute the sea and will lead the people of the Mediterranean to a grim future.’ Pavlos Polakis, mayor of the city of Sfakia told AFP.”

Severe diarrheal illness in children linked to antibiotics prescribed in doctor’s offices

According to the CDC, an overwhelming percentage of cases of pediatric Clostridium difficileinfection occur in children who were prescribed antibiotics during the 12 weeks prior to illness for unrelated conditions—such as ear, sinus, or upper respiratory infections.  C. difficile is a bacteria that causes severe diarrhea and is potentially life threatening.

CDC – “Taking antibiotics is the most important risk factor for developing C. difficile infections for both adults and children.  When a person takes antibiotics, beneficial bacteria that protect against infection can be altered or even eliminated for several weeks to months. During this time, patients can get sick from C. difficile picked up from contaminated surfaces or spread from a health care provider’s hands.”


(image courtesy of CDC/James Gathany)

Bacteria that cause Legionnaires’ disease are not uncommon

By Chris Healey

Legionellosis is on the rise in the United States.

A recent study published in Environmental Science & Technology described the presence of Legionella pneumophila in nearly half of the 272 water samples collected across the United States. The presence of L. pneumophila in well water is alarming because it can infect humans if the water becomes aerosolized.

Widespread detection of L. pneumophila in well water coincides with increasing cases of the illness. Health departments across the U.S. have reported rising rates of legionellosis.

L. pneumophila causes Legionellosis—an overarching term given to two clinically and epidemiologically distinct illnesses. Legionnaires’ disease is characterized by fever, myalgia, cough, and clinical or radiographic pneumonia. Pontiac fever is characterized by milder versions of same symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease with no pneumonia. Infection occurs after inhalation of bacteria or bacterial antigen aerosolize in a mist or spray. The disease is noncommunicable; it cannot be spread from person to person.

Symptoms of Legionnaire’s disease begin 2 to 10 days after exposure, but symptoms often appear in 5 to 6 days. Most cases of Legionnaires’ disease can be treated with antibiotics, specifically fluoroquinolones or macrolides. Hospitalization is often required, with a case fatality rate as high as 15%. Most individuals exposed to Legionella will show no symptoms of infection, or only experience a mild illness.

Those at greatest risk of developing symptoms include the elderly, current or former smokers, those with chronic lung disease, immunocompromised individuals, and those taking immunosuppression drugs.

Pontiac fever is a self-limited, non-lethal febrile illness that does not progress to pneumonia. Symptoms of appear 5 to 72, but most often 24 to 48, hours after antigen exposure and usually lasts 2 to 5 days. Antibiotics do nothing to alleviate Pontiac fever. Patients recover spontaneously without treatment.

According to the CDC, L. pneumophila colonizes the lungs and is difficult to diagnose. Bacterial isolation, direct fluorescent antibody testing, urine antigen, and serology can all be used to test for infection.

L. pneumophila gets its name from its manner of discovery. The bacterium was isolated and identified among members of the Pennsylvania American Legion who were attending a conference in Philadelphia in 1976. Of the 182 members who developed acute illness, 29 died.

Although it was discovered and named in 1976, the bacterium was isolated about 25 years earlier. L. pneumophila has been confirmed as the causative agent of outbreaks dating back to 1959.

Since there is no vaccine for legionellosis, prevention stems from maintaining warm water sources. Commercial cooling towers should be drained and scale and sediment removed when not in use. Hot water tanks should be maintained at a temperature greater than 122 degrees Fahrenheit. Hot tub and whirlpool maintenance should follow manufacturer recommendations. Hot tubs, for example, should have bromide levels between 4 and 6 parts per million, while pH should be kept slightly basic – between 7.2 and 7.8.

The natural presence of L. pneumophila also poses a security concern. Soviet scientists working on the Soviet bioweapons program reported they had genetically modified L. pneumophila to be more lethal. The possibility exists that modern state or non-state actors could modify the bacteria in a similar way for malicious purposes.


Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons/ JJ Harrison

Putin: Spotlight Seeker, Peace Keeper, Russian Defender

By Alena James

For the past several months, Russia, it seems, has been unable to avoid the spotlight.

In June 2013, we watched Russian President Vladimir Putin pass legislation prohibiting the portrayal of homosexuality—or “propaganda”—in the media.  The action sparked a backlash among LGBT Rights protesters.

In August, we witnessed Putin serve as a liaison between Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad, and the rest of the international community by encouraging Assad to concede his country’s chemical weapons stock piles after the use of chemical weapons in Damascus. This action led to increased tensions between the US and Russia.

In February 2014, we saw Russia in all of its glory as they hosted the Winter Olympics in Sochi, even despite rumors that the games would be the target of a Chechen terrorist attack.  Now this March, we see Russia back in the spotlight for its gutsiest move of the year.

Last weekend, Russian troops (bearing no Russian insignia) invaded Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.  The invasion came at a time when the ousting of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, created a leadership vaccum and left pro-Russian and pro-Ukrainian factions to fight against each other to determine the fate of the new Ukrainian government. Until last week, Putin had remained silent on the issue, but has now announced the mobilization of troops into the region to be at the request of PresidentYanukovych; who is wanted by the interim Ukrainian government for the mass murder of at least 75 protesters. Ukrainians protesting the mobilization in Crimea are appealing to western countries for support and a NATO meeting was scheduled for Wednesday to discuss the Crimean Crisis.

In an interview, Putin announced his unwillingness to consider the intermediate leaders controlling the Ukrainian government legitimate, and said Yanukoych is still Ukraine’s president. The Russian President further declared that the mobilization of troops into the peninsula was done at the request of the Yanukoych and within his scope as Russian President in order to protect all Russians residing in Ukraine.

So, what is Putin thinking? Could his negotiations with the ousted president be another display of his own political pageantry and expression of dominance in the region? Or are his intentions genuinely within the interests of the Russian people residing in Ukraine? Is it possible that Putin really just wants to test the US to see hard it can push? Or is Putin dreaming of a newly reconstructed Soviet Union envisioning himself as the supreme leader? Perhaps, he is just tired of western powers engaging in the region?  Let us know what you think by leaving your comments below.

For a transcript of Vladimir Putin’s interview can be found from the Washington Post.

Image Credit:

Pandora Report 3.7.14

Editor’s note: Greetings Pandora Report subscribers! I hope you enjoyed that goofy video last week. For my first official Pandora Report, I rounded up some great stories (including a look back at history. As a social scientist, I really couldn’t help myself!)

Highlights include Botulism research and development, CDC antibiotic warning, the Nazi insect weapons program, and Marburg. Happy Friday!

Hawaii Biotech awarded $5.5M contract to develop anti-botulism drugs

Hawaii Biotech Inc. received a $5.5 million contract from the Department of Defense to continue development of drugs to treat botulinum toxin—a life threatening disease which currently has no known treatment. This grant was in addition to an existing $7.4 million grant held by Hawaii Biotech to develop anti-anthrax drugs.

Pacific Business News – “Under the contract, Hawaii Biotech will be working to improve its current anti-botulinum toxin inhibitor drug candidates that have demonstrated activity in pre-clinical testing with the goal of enhancing the stability, bioavailability and safety of these drug candidates so they can be used in humans.”

CDC: Antibiotic Overuse Can Be Lethal

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report Tuesday criticizing the overuse of antibiotics in hospitals and the consequences of these actions. Though prescribing practices vary between hospitals and doctors, the report highlights discrepancies across patients with similar symptoms and illnesses and urges caution in use of powerful antibiotics.

The Wall Street Journal – “Overprescribing antibiotics is making many of these drugs less effective because superbugs resistant to them are developing so fast. The practice also can sicken patients, by making them vulnerable to other types of infections such as Clostridium difficile, a bacterial infection.”

Nazi scientists planned to use mosquitoes as biological weapon

In 1942, Heinrich Himmler, head of the SS, ordered the creation of an entomological institute at the Dachau concentration camp. But why? Supposedly it was to study lice, fleas, and similar pests that were causing problems for German soldiers. However, a recent report offers an additional answer.

The Guardian – “In 1944, scientists examined different types of mosquitoes for their life spans in order to establish whether they could be kept alive long enough to be transported from a breeding lab to a drop-off point. At the end of the trials, the director of the institute recommended a particular type of anopheles mosquito, a genus well-known for its capacity to transmit malaria to humans.

With Germany having signed up to the 1925 Geneva protocol, Adolf Hitler had officially ruled out the use of biological and chemical weapons during the Second World War, as had allied forces. Research into the mosquito project had to be carried out in secret.”

Army one step closer to treatment against deadly Marburg virus

Exciting news, this week, regarding the development of a drug which may be able to prevent Marburg hemorrhagic fever virus from replicating in animals. The drug, BCX4430, was developed in partnership with BioCryst Pharmaceuticals Inc. through a grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).

The Frederick News-Post – “‘The drug works by using a compound that “tricks” the virus during the RNA replication process by mimicking it,’ said Travis Warren, [a principal researcher at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick.] ‘Once the virus incorporates BCX4430 into its RNA, the virus is forced to end further replication. If the virus can’t effectively replicate its RNA genome, it can’t produce more infectious virus. It has no other options than to end that replication cycle.’”

(image courtesy of CDC/ James Gathany)

The Pandora Report 1.10.14

Highlights include PEDv thriving in the polar vortex, H5N1 in Canada, archaeological epidemiology,  H7N9 in China, and MERS in Oman. Happy Friday!

Cold, wet weather may help spread deadly pig virus: USDA
Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus (PEDv) has officially spread to 22 states, helped in part by the colder weather, and affecting over 2,000 hogs. The virus, which causes diarrhea, vomiting, dehydration, and death in piglets, reaches as far west as California. The cooler weather enables the hardy virus freezes on clothes and on the bottom of shoes, enabling spread.

Baltimore Sun – “‘The virus likes cold, wet and cloudy days,’ said Rodney Baker, a swine veterinarian at Iowa State University at Ames, Iowa, the top pork producing state in the United States.Earlier this week several hog producing states experienced double digit sub zero temperatures, and forecasters now are calling for warmer temperatures as highs climb toward 30 degrees Fahrenheit by the weekend. Baker told Reuters the virus can remain viable after a single, maybe even a couple of freeze-thaw cycles. Cold weather and cloudy conditions protect the virus, but heat and sunlight will deactivate it, Baker said. The spread of the disease has heightened scrutiny of the U.S. trucking industry as livestock transport trailers are seen as a means of transmission.”

H5N1 bird flu death confirmed in Alberta, 1st in North America
The first H5N1 fatality in North America occurred in Canada last week. A Canadian woman returning from China became symptomatic on December 27th, was hospitalized January 1st, and died January 3rd. The woman had not visited any live farms, not had she come in contact with poultry – the method of transmission remains unclear. Remember, while H5N1 has a fatality rate of 60%,  there is currently no indication the virus is readily transmissible person-to-person. It’s just not well adapted to our immune system – for now at least, it prefers the birds.

CBC – “Dr. Gregory Taylor, deputy chief public health officer, said the avian form of influenza has been found in birds, mainly poultry, in Asia, Europe, Africa and the Middle East….The officials added that the woman was otherwise healthy and it’s not yet clear how the person contracted H5N1. Speaking to Evan Solomon, host of CBC News Network’s Power & Politics, Taylor said the patient was relatively young. ‘This was a relatively young — well, a young person compared to me, with no underlying health conditions,’ he said. Taylor is 58 [reports have listed the girl as 20 years old]. Officials emphasized that this is not a disease transmitted between humans.”

Scientists unlock evolution of cholera, identify strain responsible for early pandemics
The next time you’re in Philadelphia, instead of visiting the well-trod landmarks, consider visiting the Mütter museum, home to the 200-year old intestinal samples. Those samples, taken during a cholera epidemic at the turn of the 18th century, has helped scientists characterize the classical biotype of cholera, thought to be responsible for seven outbreaks during the 19th century. Scientists had thus far been unable to study the classical biotype, due to its preference for the intestines – unlike bones which can linger for millennia, the transience of intestines makes collecting DNA samples over time challenging.

Medical Express – “Researchers carefully sampled a preserved intestine from a male victim of the 1849 pandemic and extracted information from tiny DNA fragments to reconstruct the Vibrio cholera genome. The results, currently published in The New England Journal of Medicine, could lead to a better understanding of cholera and its modern-day strain known as El Tor, which replaced the classical strain in the 1960s for unknown reasons and is responsible for recent epidemics, including the devastating post-earthquake outbreak in Haiti. ‘Understanding the evolution of an infectious disease has tremendous potential for understanding its epidemiology, how it changes over time, and what events play a role in its jump into humans,’ explains Poinar, associate professor and director of the McMaster Ancient DNA Centre and an investigator with the Michael G. DeGroote Institute of Infectious Disease Research, also at McMaster University.”

WHO: China Reports Eight New Cases of H7N9
China reported eight new cases of H7N9 in the last five days, including three cases in which exposure to live poultry could not be confirmed. Again, a slight increase in case numbers was expected with the cooler weather, and as of yet, there remains no confirmed, ongoing transmission person-to-person.  For a full breakdown of the seven cases (the eighth case was announced by health authorities in Hong Kong), see the GAR above.

WHO – “The National Health and Family Planning Commission of China has notified WHO of seven additional laboratory-confirmed cases of human infection with avian influenza A(H7N9) virus. On 4 January 2014, WHO was notified of an 86-year-old man from Shanghai City became ill on 26 December and was admitted to hospital on 30 December. He is currently in critical condition. He has a history of exposure to live poultry. On 5 January 2014, WHO was notified of 34 year old woman from Shaoxing City, Zhejiang Province became ill on 29 December and was admitted to hospital on 2 January. She is currently in critical condition.”

New Case of MERS in Oman
A 59-year-old man has died of MERS in Oman, bringing the total number of cases globally up to 178. The patient became symptomatic on December 24th, was hospitalized on December 28th, and died on December 30th. The patient had extensive exposure to camels, including participation in camel racing events.  It looks more and more like camels, everyone.

WHO – “Globally, from September 2012 to date, WHO has been informed of a total of 178 laboratory-confirmed cases of infection with MERS-CoV, including 75 deaths. Based on the current situation and available information, WHO encourages all Member States to continue their surveillance for severe acute respiratory infections (SARI) and to carefully review any unusual patterns.”

(Image depicting jar of intestine, credit: McMaster University)

New developments in legal battle over H5N1 research

Ron Fouchier, the virologist at the center of the last year’s controversial gain-of-function H5N1 research, is back in the media following the ruling on his research in Dutch courts this week. The ruling surrounded the legality of the Dutch government’s decision to request Fouchier to first obtain an export licenses before sending his H5N1 research out to the magazine Science. The government did so after classifying Fouchier’s work as dual-use research of concern, the dissemination of which could be perceived as potential proliferation. This week’s ruling not only supported the government’s requirement of an export license, but extended the requirement to all future work on H5N1 transmission. Needless to say, Fouchier is not pleased. He’s accused the Dutch government of disadvantaging Dutch scientists and mitigating their academic freedom.

Read more at Science.

(Image: Selbe B./Flickr)