Science  06 Aug 2004:
Vol. 305, Issue 5685, pp. 763

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  1. Asia Girds for Bird Flu Battle

    BANGKOK—Southeast Asian governments are escalating the battle against a highly pathogenic strain of avian influenza, H5N1, planning a regional network and wider vaccination of farm birds. Both initiatives came out of a meeting held here last week by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

    Last winter, H5N1 raged through eight Asian countries, killing at least 24 people and prompting farmers to kill more than 100 million birds. The outbreak subsided in May only to resurface in late June (Science, 16 July, p. 321). Health authorities worry that the virus could change to a form easily transmitted among humans, touching off a global pandemic.

    Hans Wagner, an FAO officer in Bangkok, says 10 countries—Cambodia, East Timor, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea, Thailand, the Philippines, and Vietnam—have agreed to form a flu network. FAO will help with staff training, laboratory, and field surveillance capabilities and has pledged $1.2 million to start networks in South and East Asia. Long-term efforts will be needed to control H5N1, because “the evidence is starting to show there is now no possibility of easily eradicating this disease,” says Joseph Domenech, chief of FAO's Animal Health Service. FAO and others are expected to urge wider use of poultry vaccines, which are controversial because of their uncertain efficacy and added cost. Each bird must be inoculated at least twice, at a cost of about 5 cents per shot plus labor.

  2. Gene Therapy Pioneer Denies Sexual Abuse Charges

    A gene therapy pioneer has denied allegations that he sexually abused a young girl. William French Anderson, 67, this week pled not guilty to six charges of child molestation brought by prosecutors in Pasadena, California. The incidents allegedly took place between 1997 and 2001, when Anderson was the girl's mentor and martial arts instructor.

    Anderson, who led the first approved human gene therapy trial in 1990, is free on a $600,000 bond pending trial. The University of Southern California has placed him on leave from his position as director of the Gene Therapy Laboratory at the Keck School of Medicine in Los Angeles.

    “It is a nightmare being falsely accused,” Anderson told the Los Angeles Times on 3 August. “I did not do the things that I am charged with.”