Wednesday March 27, 2019

Zika Threat: WHO rejects the call to postpone or move Olympics from Rio

The letter to WHO is signed by 150 international scientists, doctors and medical ethicists from such institutions as Oxford University and Harvard and Yale universities in the United States

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FILE - A municipal worker prepares insecticide to be sprayed at Sambodrome in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Jan. 26, 2016. The Sambadrome will be the site of the archery competition during the Rio Olympics. Image source: Reuters
  • Zika virus also is linked to serious birth defects
  • The outbreak began in Brazil a year ago in 2015
  • Abnormal small heads are seen in newborn babies affected with the virus

Good news for people who are eagerly waiting for 2016 Olympics. The World Health Organization (WHO) has rejected a call to move or postpone this summer’s Rio Olympic Games over the Zika outbreak, reported BBC.

Zika virus also is linked to serious birth defects. WHO said that delaying the Olympics or shifting it from Rio would “not significantly alter” the spread of the virus.

Renowned scientists from all over the world wrote an open letter to WHO saying that the global health body should go through the new Zika guidance and that the new findings about the virus has made it “unethical” for the Games to go ahead.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has said it sees no reason to delay or move the Games because of the mosquito-borne disease.

More than 60 countries and territories are continuing with the transmission, while the  outbreak began in Brazil a year ago.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Thomas Frieden speaks at the National Press Club in Washington on the latest research and forecasts on the Zika virus, May 26, 2016. Image source: AP
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Thomas Frieden speaks at the National Press Club in Washington on the latest research and forecasts on the Zika virus, May 26, 2016. Image source: AP

While mild symptoms are seen in people affected with Zika, in the letter, the experts mention it causes babies to be born with abnormally small heads and may also cause a rare and sometimes fatal neurological syndrome in adults.

This letter is signed by 150 international scientists, doctors and medical ethicists from such institutions as Oxford University and Harvard and Yale universities in the United States.

They cite the failure of a mosquito-eradication programme in Brazil, and the country’s “weakened” health system as reasons to postpone or move the Olympics in “the name of public health”.

Next Story

Experts Warn Human Genome Editing is Too Risky

Chinese scientist triggered an international storm when he announced he had created the first gene-edited babies. He said he had edited the DNA of the twin girls to protect them from HIV

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genome editing, human
FILE - An embryo receives a small dose of Cas9 protein and PCSK9 sgRNA in a sperm injection microscope in a laboratory in Shenzhen, in southern China's Guangdong province, Oct. 9, 2018. VOA

A group of experts meeting for the first time to examine the pros and cons of human genome editing say it would be “irresponsible” to engage in this procedure at this time. Late last year, a Chinese scientist triggered an international storm when he announced he had created the first gene-edited babies. He said he had edited the DNA of the twin girls to protect them from HIV.

Having met at World Health Organization headquarters in Geneva earlier this week, the 18-person panel warned the procedure is too risky and should not be attempted before a system of strong rules governing this technique are established. Co-chair of the advisory committee, Margaret Hamburg, said the group has agreed on a set of core principles. She said the panel recommends the WHO create a registry for human genome editing research.

human, genome editing
Having met at World Health Organization headquarters in Geneva earlier this week, the 18-person panel warned the procedure is too risky. Wikimedia

Under this system, she said scientific work in these technologies would be registered in a transparent way. “We think it is very important to establish this registry to get a better sense of the research that is going on around the world, greater transparency about it, and in fact greater accountability in terms of assuring that research meets standards in terms of science and ethics,” Hamburg said.

ALSO READ: Congo’s Escalating Ebola Epidemic Exceeds 1,000 Cases Making it World’s Second-Worst Outbreak

The experts agree this would preclude the kind of secrecy that surrounded the work of the Chinese scientist. She said the panel would like this transparency to extend to the publication of manuscripts that emerge from important research. Hamburg said publishers will be asked to ensure the research has been registered with the WHO before it is publicized.

Hamburg said developing the guidelines on human genome editing is a process that will take about 18 months to complete, noting that it is a difficult, but urgent task that must be carried out in a thoughtful, comprehensive manner. (VOA)