Dangerous pathogen research should be stopped — for good

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Research on extremely dangerous pathogens — on “pause” in the U.S. as scientific panels consider whether or not to continue federal funding for such work — should be stopped altogether, says Marc Lipsitch, professor of epidemiology and director of the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Research on so-called potential pandemic pathogens (PPPs) is “exceptionally risky and has little public health benefit,” Lipsitch wrote in a January 20, 2015 article in Scientific American. PPPs are virus strains for which we have no natural immunity and no vaccines. If such strains are accidentally released it could cause “a global catastrophe” claiming millions of lives, Lipsitch said.

Before extremely risky research is allowed to continue, “objective, credible, disinterested and quantitative risk-benefit analysis is needed,” Lipsitch wrote.