International treaty could threaten genetics research on ebola, other infectious diseases

ebola
A burial team in protective gear carry the body of woman suspected to have died from the Ebola virus in Monrovia, Liberia. Image credit: Associated Press/Abbas Dulleh

There is something that is weighing heavily on the minds of some infectious diseases scientists these days. …

It’s an international treaty… that could, depending on how negotiations play out, make it extraordinarily difficult to conduct disease surveillance or forge research collaborations around the world.

The agreement — known as the Nagoya Protocol — could drown [infectious disease] researchers in oceans of paperwork and hobble the world’s scientists when they must next race to combat a new disease disaster, some fear.

The protocol is part of the Convention on Biodiversity, an international treaty aimed at protecting each country’s control over its own biological resources.

But since the protocol came into force in October 2014, debate has raged about whether the genetic sequences of pathogens … are subject to the agreement.

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Some involved in the debate argue genetic sequences aren’t covered by Nagoya, and that the free sharing of digital genetic information is so entrenched in scientific practice — scientific journals require it of their authors — that there’s no going back. …

But a large number of developing countries insist that the protocol gives them as much sovereignty over the genetic sequence data of viruses, bacteria, fungi, and other pathogens found within their borders as it does over plants that are crucial to drug production.

Read full, original post: Science with borders: A debate over genetic sequences and national rights threatens to inhibit research

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