Scientists say AI virus secrecy must stop
Leading scientists have called for an end to AI virus secrecy through
the establishment of a global consortium to share genetic data from bird flu
cases, deemed vital for tracking mutations and developing a vaccine against a
A letter to science journal Nature, with more than 70 scientists and health officials as
signatories, said the current level of collecting and sharing of data on the
influenza virus was "inadequate ... given the magnitude of the threat."
Data on avian flu outbreaks is usually either restricted by governments or
kept private by a small network of researchers, a report published online in the
journal Nature said. The report said many scientists and organizations are also
hoarding data so that they can be the first to publish in academic journals.
"We propose to expand and complement existing efforts with the creation of a
global consortium - the Global
Initiative on Sharing Avian Influenza Data (GISAID) - that would foster
international sharing of avian influenza isolates and data," wrote the
scientists, who include six Nobel laureates.
"The full support of the international scientific community is urgently
needed to understand better the spread and evolution of the virus, and the
determinants of its transmissibility and pathogenicity in humans," they said.
"This in turn demands that scientists â€¦ have full access to comprehensive
genetic-sequence, clinical and epidemiological data from both animal and human
Researchers taking part in the consortium would agree to share their sequence
data, analyze the findings jointly and publish the results collaboratively, they
Data would be deposited in the three publicly available databases
participating in the International Sequence Database Collaboration (EMBL, DDBJ
and GenBank) as soon as possible after analysis and validation, with a maximum
delay of six months.
Several countries and international agencies have recently taken
steps to improve sharing of influenza data, following the initiative of
leading veterinary virologists in the field of avian influenza.
While the World Health
Organisation is not directly involved, a spokesman said the organisation
fully supports the concept proposed.
Image courtesy of 3dscience.com
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