Sharing bird flu virus samples globally
Avian influenza virus sequences will be made accessible to the entire scientific community through an initiative of OFFLU, the joint network of expertise on avian influenza formed by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).
With this gesture OFFLU
reiterates its call to the world’s scientists, international organisations and countries for a global sharing of virus strains and sequences.
OFFLU was launched by the FAO
in April 2005. Since then, the organisation has been mainly working on promoting its key objectives “to exchange scientific data and biological materials (including virus strains) within the network, and to share such information with the wider scientific community”. Under this new impetus, strains will be sent to the US National Institutes of Health for sequencing and depositing on the free-access database, GenBank.
On 14 March 2006, the Scientific Committee of OFFLU, made up of the world’s leading veterinarian experts on avian influenza, revised its terms of reference to put new emphasis on the need for further collection, characterisation and exchange of avian influenza viruses, and for the expansion of the genomic database for animal influenza viruses.
Sharing virus strains, samples and sequences is a critical part of the global work on the surveillance and control of the highly pathogenic H5N1 virus, and supports the preparation of human bird flu vaccines.