Health News

US Government Allows Funding For Potentially Deadly Viruses

Photo from Pixabay

The federal government has decided to lift a three-year ban on experimenting with controversial, deadly germs that have the potential to cause pandemics.

Scientists can now resume working on three viruses, influenza, SARS and MERS, which are capable of killing millions of people if they mutated in a particular way, NPR reports. For example, the bird flu virus H7N9 has infected over 1,500 people, killing 40% of them. But unlike the flu, this virus does not spread among humans as easily.

The Department of Health and Human Services released a new framework on Tuesday regarding how decisions are made on federal funding for research that may cause pandemics.

Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, said,

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.

Biologists have pointed out that there is a need to modify viruses in order to understand how they cause pandemics – experiments that have raised concerns among the scientific community. In 2011, scientists deliberately created a deadly version of bird flu that could be transmitted among ferrets, in order to determine how the virus worked in humans. There have also been mishaps involving anthrax and bird flu in lab accidents, and the Ebola outbreak has shown how much damage a virus can do if unchecked.

In 2014, the White House issued a mandatory “funding pause” for all research that could make any of the aforementioned viruses deadlier or easier to transmit. Officials then started making regulations that would weigh the pros and cons of these experiments, with input from the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity and the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

Scientists have lauded the move to raise the ban on funding, saying that the resolution on the issue will finally allow years of work to move forwards, in order for the world to be better prepared should any viral outbreaks occur again.

Click to comment
To Top

Hi - We Would Love To Keep In Touch

If you liked this article then please consider joing our mailing list to receive the latest news, updates and opportunities from our team.

We don't want an impostor using your email address so please look for an email from us and click the link to confirm your email address.