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Researchers at the US Department of Defense (DoD) say a global network of high-tech laboratories is needed to monitor the spread of infectious diseases.

They say that when international donor agencies met in January and pledged US$1.9 billion to fight bird flu, they created an "unprecedented opportunity" to boost epidemic preparedness in developing countries (see Bird flu fight gets US$1.9 billion boost).

Writing in Nature, Jean-Paul Chretien and colleagues at DoD research centres argue that some of this money should be spent building facilities where they are most needed.

They suggest that the network should follow the example set by the US military's overseas laboratories, such as the naval research units in Egypt and Indonesia that are playing an important role monitoring bird flu.

But they point out that such units have sometimes faced local distrust or have had their funding cut.

International funding and the backing of the World Health Organization would therefore be essential for the proposed network, they say.

Link to full article in Nature

Read more about bird flu in SciDev.Net's news focus, Bird flu: the facts