Researchers Offered Chance to Study Rinderpest Virus11 July 2013
GLOBAL - Global animal health bodies have offered scientists a gateway into solving the peste des petits ruminants (PPR) virus following the decision to lift a moratorium on the rinderpest virus in the case of approved research proposals.
Originally imposed by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) last year, the moratorium relates to live rinderpest virus strains that can still be found in blood and tissue samples in more than 40 laboratory stocks globally.
Rinderpest research is expected to impact PPR because of its similarity to the rinderpest virus, a lethal virus in cattle.
The FAO has said that allowing access to the virus increases likelihood of accidental release from laboratory storage due to ‘improper handling’.
Therefore, permission to conduct research on the virus is conditional and requires approval from FAO-OIE and member state veterinary authorities.
This is to stop the undermining of what OIE Director-General Bernard Vallat has called ‘decades of international efforts’.
"An outbreak of rinderpest today would undermine decades of international efforts to eradicate rinderpest. This is why research with the virus must be tightly regulated, and the potential benefits of future research should be carefully weighed against the risks of handling the virus."
The inherent threats of such epidemiological research mean all proposals will require assessment by the Joint Rinderpest Advisory Committee.
Research proposals will be reviewed according to the following principles:
- Outputs or impacts of the research aim to protect food security for local and worldwide populations;
- Outputs of the research would contribute to sustaining effective and efficient global freedom from rinderpest;
- Outputs or impacts of the research would provide significant scientific benefits for public health or animal health.
Juan Lubroth, FAO's Chief Veterinary Officer said: "While the global community succeeded in eradicating the rinderpest virus in nature, we need to keep a close eye on virus samples that remain in laboratories,"
"Smallpox in humans was also eradicated more than 30 years ago, but smallpox too had to be painstakingly eliminated from laboratories worldwide until just two high-security locations remained.
“FAO is committed to assist countries in either destroying or securing any remaining rinderpest viruses held in laboratories to avoid any risks of their release into the natural environment."