Les États-Unis ont levé leur interdiction fédérale de créer des virus mortels en laboratoire

moratoire imposé sur le financement de la recherche impliquant le développement et l’étude des techniques visant à rendre certains virus plus meurtriers et plus transmissibles, voire mortels.

moratoire imposé sur le financement de la recherche impliquant le développement et l’étude des techniques visant à rendre certains virus plus meurtriers et plus transmissibles, voire mortels.

Le moratoire, imposé il y a trois ans, a gelé le financement de ce qu’on appelle la recherche sur le « gain de fonction » : soit des expériences controversées visant à modifier les agents pathogènes et à les rendre encore plus dangereux. Mais à présent, l’argent est de retour sur la table, donnant à ces essais le feu vert, une fois de plus.

Le directeur des National Institutes of Health (NIH), Francis S. Collins, a annoncé la levée du moratoire ce mardi, déclarant que la recherche sur le gain de fonction (dit GOF – gain of function) pour des virus tels que la grippe, le MERS (coronavirus du syndrome respiratoire du Moyen-Orient) ainsi que le SRAS (syndrome respiratoire aigu sévère) pourrait nous aider à « identifier, comprendre et élaborer des stratégies ainsi que des contre-mesures efficaces contre les agents pathogènes évoluant rapidement, qui constituent une menace pour la santé publique ».

Cela pourrait s’avérer correct, mais cette décision ne fait pas l’unanimité au sein de la communauté scientifique, qui ne se réjouit pas de la reprise de ces expériences controversées. Selon certains scientifiques, le nouveau flux de financement augmente le risque que des races d’agents pathogènes mortels échappent à l’endiguement des laboratoires, se frayant un chemin vers le public, ou ne tombe entre de mauvaises mains. « Je ne suis pas certain que le potentiel bénéfice issu de ces travaux soit plus important que le potentiel dommage », a déclaré le biologiste moléculaire Richard Ebright, de l’Université Rutgers (USA).

Pour atténuer ce risque, les NIH ont dévoilé une nouvelle réglementation quant à l’approbation des financements concernant les recherches sur les pathogènes, avec des examens prévus dans le but d’analyser les avantages potentiels des études proposées, « ainsi que le potentiel de créer, transférer ou utiliser un agent pathogène potentiellement amélioré », ont-ils ajouté.

Les nouvelles réglementations visent à guider les groupes scientifiques dans l’évaluation des recherches proposées, concernant ces formes « améliorées » de pathogènes pandémiques potentiels (dits PPP), qui sont définis comme des virus hautement transmissibles et susceptibles de largement se propager de manière incontrôlée au sein des populations humaines, ainsi que de causer une morbidité ou une mortalité significative.

Pour obtenir un financement grâce au nouveau processus, les chercheurs devront démontrer qu’ils ont la capacité de mener leurs recherches sur les pathogènes dans des installations sûres et sécurisées, avec des plans de secours pour atténuer les problèmes tels que « des accidents de laboratoire, de protocoles et de procédures, ainsi que de potentielles violations de la sécurité ». « Nous voyons cela comme une politique rigoureuse. Nous voulons être certains que nous faisons cela correctement », a déclaré Collins.

Pourtant, il reste de nombreux sceptiques. Le moratoire sur le financement a été imposé à la suite d’une série de bavures concernant le bioconfinement aux États-Unis. Incluant notamment l’exposition accidentelle des travailleurs des centres pour le contrôle et la prévention des maladies (CDC) à l’anthrax, ainsi qu’une manipulation dangereuse des échantillons de grippe aviaire (une souche mortelle a été substituée involontairement à un échantillon bénin).

Alors en effet, des nombreux scientifiques affirment que ces accidents seront une fois de plus inévitables, maintenant que la restriction est levée, en insistant sur le fait que peu importe la rigourosité de la nouvelle politique mise en place, l’élément le plus incontrôlable dans tout cela, soit l’erreur humaine, reste inchangé. Selon eux, tous ces pathogènes améliorés et mortels ne sont pas l’élément le plus dangereux : c’est plutôt nous, qui le sommes. « Un humain sera meilleur pour propager des virus qu’un aérosol », affirme l’épidémiologiste Marc Lipsitch du Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (USA). « L’ingénierie n’est pas ce qui m’inquiète. Mais les accidents après accidents sont le résultat d’erreurs humaines », ajoute-t-il.

Pourtant, d’autres se réjouissent de la capacité renouvelée à faire des progrès scientifiques dans ce domaine controversé, en argumentant que les avantages l’emportent sur les risques potentiels, en soulignant que les virus naturels évoluent également et de toute manière, par eux-mêmes. En d’autres termes, ils suggèrent que la menace de futures pandémies ne pourra jamais être totalement contrôlée, que nous choisissions ou non d’étudier de nouveaux virus émergents dans les laboratoires.

« Il y a eu des examens plus approfondis des laboratoires travaillant dans ce domaine, ce qui peut mener à une culture de sécurité encore plus robuste. Mais je crains également que le moratoire a retardé des recherches vitales », a déclaré Samuel Stanley, le président du National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB). « Je pense que la nature est le bioterroriste ultime et nous devons faire tout ce qui est en notre pouvoir pour garder une longueur d’avance ».

 

source:Trust my science

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