18 Jul 2012, BioSpectrum Bureau , BioSpectrum
Singapore: Members of the Global Virus Network (GVN), which include the foremost experts representing more than 20 countries in every category of virus studies, recently concluded a conference in Naples, Italy. Members presented their current research, identified the most serious and imminent global virus threats to public health, and discussed both what is required and how to best deal with these viruses.
The members of the Global Virus Network identified viruses transferred from animals to humans, such as avian and swine influenzas, as the most imminent and potentially pandemic threats to public health.
Dr Ilaria Capua of Italy's Veterinary Public Health Institute (IZSVe), and a leading researcher of animal-borne viruses, warned that the rapid spread of what is presently a mild form of avian flu (H9N2) is combining with a far more virulent and deadly form of avian flu, which could cause the emergence of a lethal chimeric virus. "We are sitting on a ticking time bomb, and it is imperative that the members of the Global Virus Network advocate for funding to increase surveillance and research in this field," said Dr Capua.
Dr Robert C Gallo, director, Institute of Human Virology, University of Maryland School of Medicine, said that, "It is only a matter of time before our next virus epidemic or even pandemic." Dr Gallo, who is the most widely known for co-discovering HIV and developing the HIV blood test, said that "We are not yet adequately prepared for new and existing viral threats, and our mission at the GVN is to fill that gap. The GVN represents leading experts and researchers in every classification of human virus, and is uniquely capable of assisting governments and organizations in focusing their resources on research and public policy to address viruses which pose a serious and imminent threat to public health."
The members of the Global Virus Network also determined that nature, not humans, is the public's foremost bio-terrorism threat. Dr Ab Osterhaus, professor, Erasmus University Rotterdam, Netherlands, said, "The recent claim that publishing a paper on bird flu would provide terrorists with a means to kill is absurd, and frankly, just not possible for terrorists to recreate. We must remember that all of these dangerous flu mutations are already present in regions of Southeast Asia."
Additionally, one of the world's foremost influenza experts, Dr Peter Palese, Mount Sinai Medical Center, New York, said that, "We must share information and early results so we can develop safe and effective vaccine - anything less is useless."
Dr Rino Rappuoli, global head, vaccines research, Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics, Italy, said that his foundation plans to supply vaccines against diseases that particularly target poor populations.