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US, Indonesia spar over virus samples

The Indonesian health minister has criticized an American scientist for taking tissue samples from a man suffering from a severe viral infection and exporting them out of the Southeast Asian country. The minister, Siti Fadilah Supari, said that foreign drug companies could use the samples, taken from the man named Dede, to develop profitable pharmaceuticals without remuneration for Indonesia. "We are offended because the samples were taken from Dede without our permission," she told British ne

By | November 28, 2007

The Indonesian health minister has criticized an American scientist for taking tissue samples from a man suffering from a severe viral infection and exporting them out of the Southeast Asian country. The minister, Siti Fadilah Supari, said that foreign drug companies could use the samples, taken from the man named Dede, to develop profitable pharmaceuticals without remuneration for Indonesia. "We are offended because the samples were taken from Dede without our permission," she told British newspaper, the linkurl:__Telegraph__.;http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/11/26/wtree126.xml "If they are taken abroad, they could become lucrative commodities." But linkurl:Anthony Gaspari,;http://www.umm.edu/doctors/anthony_a_gaspari.html the University of Maryland dermatologist who took blood and tissue samples from Dede, said his intentions were purely medical and not commercial. "We did take samples, and the reason we did was to render a diagnosis," he told the __Telegraph__. "We did it for humanitarian reasons, to help the patient." Dede, 35, suffers from a linkurl:human papillomavirus;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/15712/ (HPV) infection that has covered his body with abnormally aggressive growths. The growths have ravaged his body since he was a teenager, and his disfiguration has prevented him from working and caring for his two children. Gaspari found that Dede's affliction is caused by HPV preying upon his weakened immune system, the result of a rare genetic defect. Gaspari says that Dede's infection is treatable with large doses of synthetic vitamin A and surgery to remove the cutaneous growths, according to another __Telegraph__ linkurl:story.;http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/11/12/wtree112.xml Previously, Supari made international headlines by linkurl:refusing;http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/JAK170407.htm World Health Organization (WHO) researchers access to samples of the linkurl:H5N1;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/22683/ avian flu strain, which has killed dozens of people in Indonesia. Supari suggested then that the samples could be used by Western pharmaceutical companies to develop a vaccine without compensating Indonesia. Supari's comments about Dede and Gaspari came after she returned to Indonesia from a recent WHO linkurl:meeting;http://www.who.int/gb/pip/ in Geneva about developing improved rules for international virus sharing. At that meeting, Supari linkurl:clashed;http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/318/5854/1229a with WHO officials, claiming that they are refusing to return H5N1 viruses isolated from some of the few samples that Indonesia previously provided.
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