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Thursday, December 08, 2005 

Is Indonesia even dumber than the United States?

Over on SciAm Observations, they report that Indonesia has threatened to close down NAMRU-2. For those of you unfamiliar, NAMRU-2 is an acronym for "U. S. Naval Medical Research Unit No.2", and they work over in Indonesia (and extend to other countries in the region) to do infectious disease surveillance, outbreak investigation, and a number of other public health activities. Most recently, they've also been vital in working on the diagnosis of avian flu cases in that country, as it's the only facility with a BL-3 laboratory in the country. From the sounds of things, the country is valuing playing the game of politics rather than securing the health of its people (I know, a familiar ring):
The official justification for shutting down the lab is that the memorandum of understanding between the governments of Indonesia and the United States, which set up NAMRU-2 in 1970, expired in 2000 and has yet to be renewed. Since 2000, however, the lab has continued its activities--which in addition to large diagnostic and surveillance programs includes training medical workers to recognize and treat H5N1-infected patients--without interruption. "From 1 January 2006," the letter dictates, "all NAMRU-2 activities will be terminated until a new M.O.U. between the Government of Indonesia and the United States Government has been signed."

The letter does not mention what concessions Indonesia aims to obtain from the U.S. But it closes by reminding health officials that every scientific article they produce in collaboration with a foreign researcher must be cleared by the ministry of health before it can be published.

This hits close to home for me, as a technician in my lab is supposed to head over to Jakarta next semester, after finishing her MPH degree this month. This is the first time I've heard of these threats...I'll have to check with her to see if they've been more forthcoming in her communications.

Edited to add: Effect Measure's take on the situation

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About me

  • I'm Tara C. Smith
  • From Iowa, United States
  • I'm a mom and a scientist, your basic stressed-out, wanna-have-it-all-and-do-it-all Gen Xer. Recently transplanted from Ohio to Iowa, I've spent most of my life in the midwest (with 4 years of college spent out east in "soda" territory). My main interest, and the subject of my research, is infectious disease: how does the microbe cause illness? What makes one strain nasty, and another "avirulent?" Are the latter really not causing any disease, or could some of those be possible for the development of chronic disease years down the road? Additionally, I've spent a lot of time discussing the value of teaching evolution, and educating others about "intelligent design" and other forms of creationism. My interest in history of science and medicine is also useful as a way to tie all of the above interests together. [Disclaimer: the views here are solely my own, and do not represent my employer, my spouse, that guy who's always sitting by the fountain when I come into work, or anyone else with whom I may be remotely affiliated.]
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