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Responsibilities and obligations of using human research specimens transported across national boundaries
  1. A S Muula1,
  2. J M Mfutso-Bengo1,2
  1. 1Department of Community Health, University of Malawi, College of Medicine, Blantyre, Malawi
  2. 2Malawi Bioethics Research Unit (MABIRU), Malawi
  1. Correspondence to:
 A S Muula
 Department of Community Health, University of Malawi, College of Medicine, Private Bag 360, Chichiri, Blantyre 3, Malawi; a_muula{at}


Research collaboration beyond national jurisdiction is one aspect of the globalisation of health research. It has potential to complement researchers in terms of research skills, equipment and lack of adequate numbers of potential research subjects. Collaboration at an equal level of partnership though desirable, may not be practicable. Sometimes, human research specimens must be transported from one country to other. Where this occurs, there should be clear understanding between the collaborating research institutions regarding issues of access and control of the specimens as well as the duration of storage of specimens. The researchers have the duty to inform the research participants about specimen storage and transport across national boundaries. While obtaining informed consent from study subjects if specimens are to be stored beyond the life of the present study could be the ideal, there still remains significant challenges in a multi-cultural world.

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  • Competing interests: ASM is a Fogarty Infectious Diseases Fellow at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. JMM-B is the Secretary of the College of Medicine Research and Ethics Committee, the National Health Sciences Research Committee, and Data and Safety Monitoring Boards of the National Institutes of Health, USA.

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