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Military-based Research Labs Needed To Manage Bird Flu Threat

In an attempt to tackle the global threat from bird flu, it has been proposed to construct military-style laboratories as it is felt that// it may provide the best help in the avian influenza fight. The proposal to set up such a system has been published in the internationally acclaimed Nature journal.

Improved surveillance measures through co-ordination between such international labs can warn the underdeveloped and developing countries (Africa, Asia, sub-Saharan Africa) regarding the possibility of a bird flu outbreak, say a group of military-affiliated experts.

The success of the former and the current military labs could be exploited to incorporate a broad range of diagnostic abilities. This however would not be possible without employing personnel from diverse disciplines. The establishment could then be used to provide valuable information about disease threats to a wide range of host countries, through collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO).

One such navy research unit located in Indonesia helped identify the much-dreaded H5N1 strain of bird flu, last year. This provided a warning regarding the possibility of a viral mutation that would enable human-human transmission of the bird flu. In a similar way, a US based navy lab, in Egypt detected the bird flu virus among birds in central Asia. Financial and space constraints have forced the closing of all but five labs.

Ever since the virus emerged in 2003, the bird flu virus has claimed the valuable lives of 94 people and infected 174 others, according to estimates of the WHO. In view of the fact that such zoonotic diseases (diseases from animals to human beings) stem from remote nations with insufficient scientific resources and ineffective surveillance measures, globalization of the research labs should be enabled through enhanced funding and an active participation.


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