The controversy over H5N1 transmissibility research: an opportunity to define a practical response to a global threat.
Fedson DS, Opal SM.
Sergy Haut, France.
Since December 2011, influenza virologists and biosecurity experts have been engaged in a controversial debate over research on the transmissibility of H5N1 influenza viruses. Influenza virologists disagreed with the NSABB's recommendation not to publish experimental details of their findings, whereas biosecurity experts wanted the details to be withheld and future research restricted. The virologists initially declared a voluntary moratorium on their work, but later the NSABB allowed their articles to be published, and soon transmissibility research will resume. Throughout the debate, both sides have had understandable views, but both have overlooked the more important question of whether anything could be done if one of these experimentally derived viruses or a naturally occurring and highly virulent influenza virus should emerge and cause a global pandemic. This is a crucial question, because during the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic, more than 90% of the world's people had no access to timely supplies of affordable vaccines and antiviral agents. Observational studies suggest that inpatient statin treatment reduces mortality in patients with laboratory-confirmed seasonal influenza. Other immunomodulatory agents (glitazones, fibrates and AMPK agonists) improve survival in mice infected with influenza viruses. These agents are produced as inexpensive generics in developing countries. If they were shown to be effective, they could be used immediately to treat patients in any country with a basic health care system. For this reason alone, influenza virologists and biosecurity experts need to join with public health officials to develop an agenda for laboratory and clinical research on these agents. This is the only approach that could yield practical measures for a global response to the next influenza pandemic.
H5N1, immunomodulatory agents, influenza, statins, transmissibility research
[PubMed - as supplied by publisher]