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Ciptapangan Visitor
China scientists call bird flu paper "unscientific"
posted by admin on 08/11/06

China's latest official comment in the controversy appears unlikely to still concerns.

BEIJING, Nov 7 (Reuters) - Chinese government scientists have rejected international scientists' claims that a new strain of H5N1 bird flu has emerged in coastal China and may spread across Asia and Europe, state media reported late on Monday.

The director of China's National Avian Influenza Reference Laboratory, Chen Hualan, and the director of influenza research at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Shu Yuelong, said no "Fujian-like" strain of bird flu had spread among the country's birds and human victims.

"This viewpoint and conclusion have no scientific basis," Chen told the official Xinhua news agency, rejecting a paper published last week in the U.S. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (www.pnas.org).

"The paper's so-called 'Fujian-like virus' is not a new strain," she said. "These viruses are quite stable genetically and have not shown any major changes in resistance," he added.

Scientists worldwide are grappling with the risk that H5N1 bird flu, which has spread widely among fowl and can infect and kill humans in close contact with infected birds, may mutate into a deadly version that spreads easily between humans.

China's official scientific counter-blast came after scientists in Hong Kong and the United States said they had found the new strain of H5N1 virus in China and warned it could have started another wave of outbreaks in birds across Southeast Asia.

The strain is called the "Fujian-like virus" because it was first isolated in eastern China's Fujian province in March 2005.

It has been detected increasingly widely since Oct. 2005 in poultry in six provinces in China, said Guan Yi and Malik Peiris from the University of Hong Kong, and Rob Webster of St Jude Children's Research Hospital in the United States.

The strain might also have become resistant to vaccines, which China began using on a large scale from Sept. 2005 to protect poultry from H5N1, they said.

But the two Chinese scientists said the Fujian virus was not a new strain and was, genetically, over 99 percent consistent with the bird flu that appeared in southern China in early 2004.

Chen accused the Hong Kong and U.S. researchers of "unscientific methods" and said China's current vaccination programme was effective.

She also acknowledged a new strain of the H5N1 virus had been found in northern China in early 2006, and said China had already reported this finding to international animal health authorities.

Shu, the Chinese influenza expert, rejected the international scientists' conclusion that the new Fujian strain was behind recent human infections in China.

China's latest official comment in the controversy appears unlikely to still concerns. The World Health Organisation has said the new strain of the H5N1 virus has not shown any mutation that would enable it to spread easily among people.

But the U.N. health body has expressed frustration with Chinese agriculture officials for not quickly sharing virus samples with international researchers to allow better understanding of bird flu's spread and evolution.

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