16 July 1998

International Database To Keep Tabs On 'Flu

It's the medical equivalent of Interpol - a vast network of information allowing researchers from around the world to track down their most wanted flu's. Containing the planet's most comprehensive collection of genetic information about the influenza virus, the Los Alamos National Laboratory's Influenza Sequence Database will be unveiled at the American Society for Virology meeting this week in Vancouver, British Columbia.

"Unless there is a central collection point for all the published and unpublished influenza sequences, there is no way to make all the necessary data available to the research community," says database manager Catherine Macken. "With an international repository, we can conduct cohesive analysis rather than patchwork research around the world."

The library, which is accessible through the Internet, will also be a vital tool for allowing scientists to understand how the 'flu bug mutates. As well as being a comprehensive database of gene fragments, it will include essential background information about 'flu sequences. Macken and her colleagues are currently working on software to visually and statistically assess the variation in sequences - software that could aid in the development of vaccines.

"This database is a model for the type of tool that would also be useful in tracking the spread of more deadly diseases, whether they are naturally occurring or the result of intentional biological releases," says Alan Perelson, leader of Los Alamos' Theoretical Biology and Biophysics Group. "Los Alamos is actively involved in developing new, cutting-edge capabilities to reduce threats to our national security."

Picture � Los Alamos National Laboratory

GoGo Further Influenza Sequence Database