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Up for debate — WHO guidelines on prompt release of outbreak data

WHO, Geneva, Switzerland.
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To understand and control disease outbreaks, researchers need free access to the genetic sequences of pathogenic organisms as soon as they are ready (N. L. Yozwiak et al. Nature 518, 477–479; 2015).

The World Health Organization (WHO) is proposing a code of conduct for the public release of pathogen genomic sequences at the time of disease outbreaks. By making it easier to share the benefits rapidly and equitably, the code will help public-health authorities, product developers and researchers to collaborate more effectively, and from a position of mutual trust.

The WHO code of conduct is based on consultations with stakeholders and on lessons from recent outbreaks. Crucially, all parties must recognize the importance of early pathogen sequencing and early public sharing of data and benefits, before and during outbreaks. Sequence sharing before publication should become standard; secondary users and data providers need to collaborate on reports of sequence analyses; and international partners should support local sequencing efforts and develop a sequence-analysis network. Exploring different models for sharing sequence data will allow for the preferences of data providers.

The draft code of conduct is available at go.nature.com/2bbIkts and the deadline for commenting is 28 January 2019.

Nature 564, 345 (2018)

doi: 10.1038/d41586-018-07803-1

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