PITTSBURGH, June 2 /PRNewswire/ -- Comments by the Director General of Infection Control in Indonesia, I Nyoman Kandun, on releasing H5N1 avian influenza sequences are encouraging. They follow a recent news article by Declan Butler in Nature magazine questioning the withholding of the information following the largest and most fatal cluster of bird flu in Indonesia. The disease onset dates for cluster members strongly supported sequential transmission of H5N1. Sequences from this outbreak and early human cases in Indonesia are sequestered at the World Health Organization's (WHO) private database. Recombinomics has called for full release of these sequences previously.
At this time, sequences from only one H5N1 patient in Indonesia have been made public. This specific isolate has been selected for development of a new pandemic vaccine in the United States. Although the sequence was deposited in the WHO private database on August 1, 2005, it was not made public until March 25, 2006. The sequence was related to Indonesian poultry sequences, but it had a novel cleavage site. The sequence shows evidence of extensive recombination, with polymorphisms from H5N1 isolates in Vietnam, Thailand, wild birds in China, and the Qinghai strain of H5N1.
The description of H5N1 sequences from Indonesia indicates at least three distinct H5N1 strains are circulating in humans in Indonesia. The most common strain is similar to the publicly available sequence, which has a novel cleavage site which has not been reported in poultry in Indonesia or elsewhere. A second strain has the wild type cleavage site, but has PB2 E627K, which is associated with increased virulence in mammals and an almost universal fatality rate in humans. The third version is in the recent large cluster in north Sumatra and is amantadine resistant.
Release of these human sequences would provide clues on their origin. Recombinomics has patent pending sequence analysis methods to trace origins of isolates as well as predict sequence changes. "The diversity of co- circulating strains of H5N1 can be effectively analyzed with Recombinomics technology, but the usefulness of the approach is enhanced by a robust database of all eight gene segments. Currently H5N1 sequences from only two of these segments from one patient in Indonesia are publicly available," said Recombinomics president, Henry Niman, Ph.D. He continued, "Data from an H5N1 infected cat as well as other hosts in Indonesia and worldwide would also enhance the analysis, adding to the need for the release of all sequestered H5N1 sequences."
Selection of new vaccine targets is vital. H5N1 recombines frequently, leading to rapid evolution. Vaccines against future sequences are more effective than vaccines against sequences that have already emerged. Release of the sequestered sequences will improve selection of vaccine targets, and is essential for the control of an emerging pandemic genome.
About Recombinomics, Inc. -- The Company was founded by Dr. Henry Niman, a former Scripps Institute Assistant Member, based on his pioneering work in the area of viral evolution. Dr. Niman's research identified recombination as the underlying mechanism driving rapid genetic change, allowing him to file a series of patents based on a deep understanding of this paradigm shifting process. Recombinomics is in the process of commercializing its patent-pending approach to significantly improve the standard vaccine development process. Recombinomics, through its analysis and commentary section of its website (http://www.recombinomics.com), has been consistently ahead of both the scientific community and government agencies in anticipating the genetic evolution and geographic expansion of H5N1.
Dr. Henry Niman
648 Field Club Road,
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15238