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Smallpox decision postponed

By Tim Sandle     Jun 1, 2014 in Science
Geneva - The World Health Organization (WHO) has again postponed its decision whether to destroy the world’s remaining stocks of smallpox virus.
Over the past few weeks Digital Journal has been covering the subject of what to do with the world's last remaining stocks of the smallpox virus: be destroyed, lest the fall into the hands of a terrorist group and become a bio-terror weapon? Or be retained in case another similar virus emerges, thus continuing as a valuable research tool?
In one article Digital Journal heard from scientists who argued that stocks must be retained; and in another article, the case for destruction was made.
The debate has been rendered academic, for now at least. The World Health Organization (WHO) has decided that more time is needed to debate the issue. The reason for this is because two different WHO committees have come to different conclusions on the matter. The WHO’s ‘advisory committee on variola virus research’ (ACVVR), which oversees and approves any research using the stocks, felt that live virus was no longer needed to develop diagnostics and vaccines, but was still needed to develop antiviral drugs. By contrast, its ‘advisory group of independent experts to review the smallpox research programme’ (AGIES) felt that there was no research justification for holding on to the stocks.
Yet, as the Nature News blog reports: "A central question remains whether research of public-health importance is still needed on the virus, or whether the last stocks should be destroyed to eliminate the threat of an accidental release from the two labs where they are held."
So, it is unlikely that this debate will go away for a long time. Scientists and politicians need to resolve the issue relating to one of the most deadly viruses ever.
More about Smallpox, Virus, Stocks, Who, World health organization
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