Indonesia, the country worst hit by the flu pandemic, has stopped sharing human genetic samples of the most deadly strain of H5N1 bird flu with foreign laboratories last month.
This was due to its raising fears of the international efforts to fight the highly pathogenic illness and to protect its intellectual property rights ahead of a planned vaccine tie-up with Baxter International.
The H5N1 virus has spread into the Middle East, Africa and Europe since it reemerged in Asia in 2003 and outbreaks have now been detected in birds in around 50 countries. It remains largely an animal disease, but can kill people who come into close contact with infected birds. It has killed 166 people over the past four years, including 63 in Indonesia.
Dr Triono Soendoro, director general of Indonesia's National Institute of Health Research and Development, said the government decided to withhold samples because the it wanted to keep control of the intellectual property rights of the deadly strain of the virus. However, he declined to give further details.
Baxter confirmed late Monday that it expected to conclude a "framework for future collaboration" with Indonesia this week, which could involve intellectual property issues, but stressed that it would continue to comply with World Health Organization rules on sharing virus samples.