The latest dispute over bird flu samples between Indonesia and the United States influenced indirectly the long-standing question of NAMRU-2, or the U.S. Naval Medical Research lab.
The refusal to share samples of H5N1 avian influenza virus actually arrested any talks to renew the operation of NAMRU-2 in Jakarta. The following agreement expired 2 years ago and has not been resigned.
NAMRU-2 Detachment, Jakarta, was established in Indonesia in 1970 to investigate infectious diseases of military importance both for the U.S. Navy and the rest of the Department of Defense. It housed Indonesian early efforts to track H5N1 and was one of the few labs in the world capable of the genetic analysis needed to identify H5N1 at the beginning of the epidemic.
Earlier Indonesia explained its refusal to share samples by fear not to have equal access to any vaccine made against bird flu. There were also some hints that Indonesia was seeking payments. Though Indonesian officials still deny any financial benefit.
Now words have turned into actions. Indonesia ordered to prohibit Indonesian institutions from providing tissue samples to NAMRU-2.
The world fears that while there are debates with Indonesia, the virus will mutate enough to cause a pandemic globally.
In a weary world of endless US military interventions, sanctions, trade tariffs and chaos, let’s pause and take stock of the shining house on the hill