"Supermap" to track bird flu
An interactive "supermap" that portrays the mutations
and spread of the avian flu around the globe has been created.
Scientists have designed a new interactive map of the spread of avian influenza (H5N1)
that incorporates genetic, geographic
and evolutionary information. Over time, this map should help researchers and
policy makers better understand the avian virus and anticipate further
Researchers from University of Colorado
have used data from the known evolution and spread of the
avian flu to create a roadmap of viral spread in time and space. The team
projected genetic and geographic information onto an interactive globe using Google Earth
This allows users to fly virtually around the planet and analyse movements and
changes in the genomes, or genetic blueprints, of known avian flu sub-strains
that have been sequenced since the virus was first detected in China in
New, quick, easy
"This is a completely new method of integrating and sharing knowledge about
disease spread, giving people a quick and easy way to make sense of the
changes," said graduate student Andrew Hill, a study co-author and chief
architect of the visualisation portion of the research project.
A team of biomedical experts, led by Daniel
, an assistant professor in the department of biomedical informatics
at Ohio State University, used special software to create an evolutionary tree
of the virus's mutations.
â€œThe map gives us a whole new way of seeing the virus in action and
understanding what it is - and isn't - doing,â€ says Janies. â€œIt's enabled us to
compare findings about viruses in the real world against pre-existing hypotheses
about the spread of H5N1 that come from laboratory studies.â€
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