NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The Genome Institute of Singapore today announced that in collaboration with the University of Maryland its researchers have designed an automated method for identifying dangerous changes in the influenza virus genome with high accuracy and sensitivity.
The method is available as a free software package called Graph-incompatibility based Reassortment Finder, or GiRaF. The method can be used to detect reassortments in the viral genome by analyzing large databases of influenza genomes and all segments of the viral genome, said GIS, an institute of Singapore’s Agency for Science, Technology, and Research.
While viruses typically evolve through a gradual accumulation of mutations, in some cases influenza strains can emerge as a hybrid of two different strains, in a process called reassortment. Such strains can have new traits, such as the ability to replicate faster or better evade the human immune system.
GiRaF, which is described in a study published in the Dec. 21 online edition of Nucleic Acids Research, was developed by Niranjan Nagarajan , a senior research scientist at GIS, and Carl Kingsford, assistant professor of computer science at the University of Maryland.
“Besides its utility for influenza surveillance, GiRaf also enables more systematic studies of the reassortment process, as we search for clues on how and when novel flu strains emerge”, Nagarajan said in a statement.