COLUMBIA--(Marketwire - Jan. 21, 2010) - The BC Centre for Disease Control has launched an influenza
genome sequencing project to better understand how the pandemic H1N1 flu virus
has evolved in British Columbia, and may continue to evolve in the coming
capitalizes on BC's expertise and capacity in genome sequencing to
generate hundreds of complete genomes from circulating influenza viruses
collected in British Columbia during the H1N1 pandemic, as well as during and
after the Olympics. By comparing the evolution of BC's influenza virus to that
of viruses sequenced in other regions, researchers hope to learn how a mass
gathering such as the Olympics can impact the virus' genetic sequence. The
project will also allow researchers to track the geographic origins of the H1N1
virus that entered BC in 2009.
"We know from earlier studies that one of the most important drivers of an
influenza virus' evolution is the mixing of different lineages of virus from
around the world," explains Dr. Robert Brunham, Provincial Executive
Director of the BC Centre for Disease Control. "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."
Although researchers predict that exposure to influenza
viruses from different countries will lead to changes in the H1N1 virus'
genetic sequence, these changes are unlikely to change the severity of disease
due to the H1N1 virus.
"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," explains Dr. Perry Kendall, British Columbia's Provincial Health
Large-scale genome projects such as this have only become
common in the last five years, as sequencing technologies have improved and
become faster and more cost-efficient. "This is the first time since this
technology has matured that both a pandemic and an Olympics have occurred
together," says Dr. Alan Winter, President
and CEO of Genome BC. "The timing provides a very significant
opportunity to study how a virus evolves when it is meeting and mixing with
viruses from around the world."
While influenza activity has declined to
baseline or below baseline levels in Canada, pandemic H1N1 activity elsewhere
remains variable, with some Eastern European and Western Asian countries
continuing to report above-baseline activity levels.
This project is jointly
funded by the BC Centre for Disease Control, Genome British Columbia and Genome
Canada. Research is being conducted at both the BCCDC Public Health Microbiology & Reference
Laboratory and Canada's Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre.
For more information