NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released more than 650 genes from an undisclosed number of flu viruses into Genbank, and it hopes other governments will follow suit, the CDC said yesterday.
The data, deposited last week, had previously been available only to a small number of influenza researchers working with the World Health Organization on vaccine development.
The CDC’s step ensures that researchers will have complete access to sequence data from viruses isolated during the annual flu season in the US, from all animal flu viruses that infect humans, and from all “novel strains” that may emerge, including the H5N1 bird flu.
The CDC said it expect to bank data for several hundred flu viruses each year.
It said its action marks “the beginning of a collaboration between the CDC and the Association of Public Health Laboratories” to “encourage more research on influenza.”
“We hope these initiatives will set the stage for other countries to adopt similar approaches to the release of Influenza virus sequence data that they manage,” Nancy Cox, director of the CDC’s Influenza Division, said in a statement on the CDC’s website.
The APHL represents public health labs in the US. Typically these labs participate in national influenza surveillance by subtyping viruses and routinely submitting some strains to the CDC for more “in-depth characterization.” CDC asks these labs to submit flu samples during the start, peak, and end of each flu season, and to submit samples that are “unusual.”
Under the new agreement, if the CDC identifies a “novel” strain from this batch it notifies the state lab that submitted it before making the data public.
The sequence data will be available in nearly real time through Genbank and through an influenza database housed at Los Alamos National Laboratories, the CDC said on its website.
The CDC took this step after it released complete genome sequences for more than 40 H5N1 viruses, an action that followed a recent decision by the Indonesian government to make available the sequences for viruses from Indonesian bird flu patients.