DEC 19, 2017 07:31 PM PST

Deadly Virus Research Ban is Lifted

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

Several years ago, the NIH imposed a moratorium on funding for some types of research that involved altering three deadly viruses - MERS, SARS, and influenza. Now, they have announced that the ban is being lifted. Some scientists believe that in order to understand what makes these viruses create major outbreaks and to prepare for potential future pandemics, it may be necessary to tinker with them in the lab, potentially making deadlier forms of these viruses.

To ensure that this work is conducted responsibly and eliminate the risks, guidelines have been released by the Department of Health and Human Services that outline what kind of research gets funding and can be performed. Learn more about the announcement from the video.

"We have a responsibility to ensure that research with infectious agents is conducted responsibly, and that we consider the potential biosafety and biosecurity risks associated with such research," the Director of the National Institutes of Health, Francis Collins, said in a statement.

When research on deadly strains of bird flu was done in 2011, the scientific community was not convinced that the work was worth the risks. Other unrelated problems have occurred as well, like the accidental release of live Anthrax samples from a government repository. Certainly, new work that modifies these viruses to make stronger forms will have to be monitored closely and carefully.

Colorized transmission electron micrograph showing particles of the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus that emerged in 2012. / Credit: NIAID

The moratorium imposed after the bird flu work was not meant to last this long, and some researchers fear the negative impact such stagnation can have. 

"There has been increased scrutiny of laboratories working in this area, which can lead to an even more robust culture of safety. But I also fear that the moratorium may have delayed vital research," commented Samuel Stanley, President of Stony Brook University to NPR. He is also Chair of the NSABB and noted that he was not speaking for the biosecurity committee. "That could have long-lasting effects on the field. I believe nature is the ultimate bioterrorist and we need to do all we can to stay one step ahead."

Researchers working in the field of virology are likely breathing some relief at the news that work in these areas can now continue. These viruses pose a real danger to people, and as such are worthy of serious study.

Sources: NPR, NIH

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on 28 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 60 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
AUG 05, 2018
Genetics & Genomics
AUG 05, 2018
Newly ID'ed Lung Cell Changes Our Understanding of Disease
This rare type of cell seems to play a major role in cystic fibrosis....
AUG 28, 2018
Cell & Molecular Biology
AUG 28, 2018
Finding the Source of a Common Immune Cell
Neutrophils are a highly abundant type of immune cell, outnumbering every other kind that runs through the bloodstream....
SEP 10, 2018
Genetics & Genomics
SEP 10, 2018
In Autism, Background Mutations can Impact Disease Severity
While people are made from the same genes, small changes in those genes can have an impact on our biology....
SEP 17, 2018
Microbiology
SEP 17, 2018
Detecting Dangerous Latent Viruses
Evidence mounts that viruses play a role in disease development....
SEP 20, 2018
Genetics & Genomics
SEP 20, 2018
Liquid Phase Separation may Play a Role in Cancer
Not all liquids mix, like oil and water; the phenomenon is called liquid-liquid phase separation. We're learning more about its role in cells....
SEP 24, 2018
Genetics & Genomics
SEP 24, 2018
Towards a Blood Test for Drowsy Driving
Driving is an everyday activity for many people around the world, and it comes with serious risks....
Loading Comments...