FAO and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) are calling on countries to comply with a global moratorium on research that involves working with live rinderpest virus in laboratories.
FAO and OIE are working together to bring about the destruction of potentially dangerous virus samples and biological materials that are currently stored in more than 40 laboratories across the world, some under insufficient levels of biosecurity. Some reserves of rinderpest virus should be kept to produce vaccines and for research in case the disease emerges again, or is released as a result of an accidental or deliberate act.
Rinderpest only still exists in laboratories
Rinderpest was officially declared eradicated by OIE and FAO a year ago, meaning the virus that causes this destructive livestock disease no longer circulates in animals and continues to exist only in laboratories. Rinderpest does not affect humans.
In two international resolutions passed in 2011, OIE and FAO member countries agreed to destroy remaining stocks of rinderpest virus or to safely store them in a limited number of relevant high containment laboratories approved by FAO and OIE. They also agreed to ban any research that uses the live virus, unless approved by the two organizations.Insufficient biosecurity levels
The process of cataloguing the still existing virus-containing materials worldwide found that some were being kept under insufficient levels of biosecurity. FAO and OIE are therefore urging countries to comply with the moratorium. The moratorium will remain in place and all future research proposals should be submitted to OIE and FAO for approval, in keeping with the 2011 resolutions. The organizations are currently working together to establish a standard protocol for making requests, as well as detailing the conditions under which such requests would be approved.
As part of the rinderpest post-eradication strategy, FAO and OIE member countries are committed to maintaining a sufficient level of monitoring and surveillance for rinderpest virus outbreaks until 2020.