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Call for the suspension of unapproved research on rinderpest virus

23 July 2012 90 years of expertise

23 July 2012: Following the eradication of rinderpest, FAO and the OIE are calling on their Member Countries to comply with the global moratorium on research that involves working with live rinderpest virus in laboratories.

In 2011, the OIE and FAO declared the world “officially free from rinderpest”. This eradication of one of the most deadly diseases of cattle is historic and marks the culmination of tens of years of international efforts. Rinderpest is the first animal disease ever to be eradication by humankind (smallpox holding a similar record among human diseases).

Nevertheless, the world remains vulnerable to the disease. A number of laboratories around the world still hold rinderpest-containing material and live vaccines. There is therefore a risk of the virus being reintroduced, whether by accidental release or a deliberate act of terrorism.

Destruction of remaining stocks of virus

With the aim of preventing any reintroduction, in 2011 the OIE’s Member Countries adopted an international Resolution committing them to destroy remaining stocks of the virus or ensure their secure storage in a minimum number of high-level containment facilities approved by the OIE and FAO and to stop all unapproved research activity.

Video: OIE urges countries to destroy rinderpest stocks

Only essential research to be allowed ...

July 2012: The OIE and FAO are united in calling on all countries of the world to comply with a global moratorium on rinderpest, in other words to voluntarily suspend their research involving live rinderpest virus until an oversight mechanism is established, which would only approve its use for essential research.
For a reminder

Since then, FAO and the OIE have set up a Joint Advisory Committee on rinderpest, composed of independent experts, to examine and, where appropriate, approve research projects.

... and only in approved establishments

In May 2014, the World Assembly of Delegates of the OIE adopted a legal framework (Resolution 23/2014) to approve facilities holding rinderpest virus-containing material. Several institutions have already submitted applications and could be proposed for approval in May 2015.

Why continue the research?

One of the potential benefits would be to examine the possibility of developing a rinderpest vaccine from the virus of peste des petits ruminants (PPR), a disease of sheep and goats caused by a similar virus. A vaccine against both diseases developed from PPR virus would avoid the need to maintain stocks of rinderpest virus to deal with a resurgence of the disease should the virus accidentally be released from a laboratory.

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