NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – British Columbia's Centre for Disease Control announced today that it is launching an effort to sequence influenza genomes in the hopes of better understanding the pandemic 2009 H1N1 virus evolution.
The team plans to sequence the genomes of hundreds of flu viruses circulating in the province before and after the Winter Olympics, taking place in Vancouver next month.
The goals of the project, which is being funded by the BCCDC and Genome British Columbia, are to understand both how the pandemic virus arrived and evolved in BC and to explore how sequences change in the virus following a large gathering of people from around the world.
"The data uncovered from this project will enable BC to track how the virus moved through the population — information that can assist public health officials in understanding the virus and preparing for future outbreaks," BC Provincial Health Officer Perry Kendall said in a statement.
Based on past flu studies, the researchers suspect that mixing viral lineages from different parts of the world will cause changes to the virus, though they noted that such alterations likely won't lead to the emergence of a virus capable of causing more severe disease.
"While we are not expecting a third wave of H1N1 in BC, we will have over 250,000 visitors in Vancouver in February, which may impact influenza virus evolution," Robert Brunham, provincial executive director of the BCCDC, said in a statement.