Don't be greedy: that seems to be the message from the World Health Organization (WHO) annual conference in Geneva this week, Reuters reports. WHO Director General Margaret Chan told health ministers from all over the world that their scientists should share any information they have about the SARS-like coronavirus wreaking havoc in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere.

Saudi Arabian officials have complained that a foreign lab's patent on the virus has delayed the development of a diagnostic test for the disease that has already killed 22 people worldwide, Reuters says. Chan warned that governments shouldn't allow commercial labs to place public health in jeopardy because they want to profit.

"Making deals between scientists because they want to take IP (intellectual property), because they want to be the world's first to publish in scientific journals, these are issues we need to address," Chan said, according to Reuters. "No IP will stand in the way of public health actions."

This novel virus was identified in September of 2012 by researchers who took a sample from Saudi Arabia and brought it to the Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands. But Saudi Arabia's Deputy Health Minister Ziad Memish told the conference attendees that the virus was taken out of his country without permission, and that it was three months before Saudi officials knew the virus had been identified. By then, Reuters says, the Erasmus lab had patented the process for synthesizing the virus, which is causing delays in the development of diagnostic and serologic tests.

Chan told the assembled ministers to make sure that their countries' scientists are sharing results and specimens with each other, Reuters says. Erasmus' patent doesn't break WHO rules on sharing information on possible pandemics as that rule only applies to flu viruses, Reuters adds.

There is still much about the virus that is unknown, including how it has spread geographically. The WHO's assistant director-general for health security Keiji Fukuda told reporters that the WHO is now entirely focused on developing ways to detect the coronavirus and stop it from spreading further, and not on whether Erasmus' actions may have been ill-advised, Reuters says.

"When you have a house burning, you look at how you put the fire out, what do you do, where do you get the water from," he said. "That's what we're worried about right now. Then later on you might look at the neighborhood and the other issues."