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Asia

Germany and India work to minimize risks of biological warfare

Germany and India are collaborating on various projects to prevent infectious diseases. The two countries are also aiming at finding ways to cope with and reduce the risks of biological warfare.

Germanyis India's second largest partner in scientific research after the United States. With an aim to further strengthen the cooperation between Germany and India in scientific research, last year German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in fields related to biomedicine during Merkel's visit to India.

Germanyand India are working to minimize the risks of germ warfare, which many security experts believe has the potential to be more devastating than a nuclear war.

German Chancellor Merkel and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in Delhi

Indo-German biomedical research saw a boost last year with new pacts

Engineered viruses

German and Indian scientists are working closely on the avian flu, in particular the deadly H5N1 avian flu found in aquatic birds and poultry.

A scientifically manipulated strain of the H5N1 virus can now be passed on between animals - or worse, from human to human, as confirmed by biosecurity experts.

The findings sparked a panic in the medical community, with fears growing that the artificially created strain could be mass produced in labs and used in biological warfare.

Though recent studies have found that the virus might not be as lethal as experts previously feared, the US National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB) concluded that the new data should not to be made public lest the information fall into the wrong hands.

"If it (the artificially-created H5N1 virus) falls into the wrong hands, this could be extremely dangerous. That is why we have banned the publication of research papers on this subject," said Dr. Syed E. Hasnain, a scientist working at New Delhi’s Indian Institute of Technology.

Hasnain pointed out that H5N1 is not the only problem, as other viruses can be created in labs.

He refused to give further details about the German-Indian projects dealing with prevention of biological warfare saying the projects demanded secrecy. He did, however, say that the Indo-German cooperation in the field of science was very strong.

Resurgence of transmittable viruses

Germanyand India had different expertise in scientific research, Hasnain told Deutsche Welle, a reason why cooperation between the two countries was so important now.

"We are collaborating with Germany in research on contagious diseases. Germany has seen a rise in tuberculosis cases over the years. Last year, India and Germany had to deal with many viral flu cases. That is why we must tackle these issues jointly," said Hasnain.

Hasnain also told Deutsche Welle that Germany and India are vigorously researching the return of tuberculosis. "How does TB spread? Does it affect different people differently? Is there a difference between the disease in India and the one in Germany? I think, so far, we have progressed fairly well on these issues," said Hasnain.

The Indian scientist hopes scientific cooperation between India and Germany will continue to progress.

Author: Iftikhar Gilani/ss
Editor: Sarah Berning

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