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Rapid Identification of New H1n1 Variant with A*STAR Scientist Expertise in Bioinformatics and Computational Modeling


6/13/2011 9:39:48 AM

June 13, 2011 -- Scientists from A*STAR’s Bioinformatics Institute (BII) helped to identify a novel variant of the circulating H1N1 virus as part of the joint influenza surveillance efforts with the Ministry of Health Singapore and the WHO Collaborating Centre in Melbourne. This novel variant has a rare-occurring neuraminidase mutation called S247N, which leads to a mild reduction in the effectiveness of Tamiflu against the normal virus but when combined with a more common Tamiflu-resistant mutation, H275Y, leads to a much stronger reduction in drug sensitivity, according to the report published in Eurosurveillance1 yesterday.

Said Dr. Ian Barr, Deputy Director of the WHO CC Melbourne, “It is rare to find strains circulating with novel mutations that can alter drug sensitivity, but our regional surveillance collaboration with Singaporean and Australian teams works very well. The good news is that viruses with the new mutation alone can still be treated successfully with Tamiflu and Relenza. But it is important to watch out for combinations with other drug resistance mutations.”

Dr Sebastian Maurer-Stroh, Director of the Infectious Disease Programme at BII and his team used bioinformatics and computational 3-dimensional structural models to characterize the novel variant H1N1 virus. Dr Maurer-Stroh said, “Computational analysis has become an integral component of infectious disease surveillance as it can dramatically speed up the identification of new variants and the effect of their mutations. Having a better understanding of how the mutation affects drug binding efficacy is a crucial step towards finding an effective cure.”

Since becoming the world’s first scientific team to use bioinformatics and computational biology in the management of H1N12 influenza A virus during the 2009 (H1N1) pandemic, Dr Maurer-Stroh’s group has further established itself as experts in influenza evolution and mutation trends. Putting together a unique surveillance tool and resource called the FluSurver, Dr Maurer-Stroh’s team has been helping health authorities around the world to quickly analyze new mutations of the rapidly-evolving influenza virus. It is Dr Maurer-Stroh’s hope to make this one- stop influenza mutation analysis available in the public domain in the near future so as to enhance the global influenza surveillance network for better and faster management of the influenza virus.

Background

During the first three months of 2011, the novel S247N variant has been detected in more than 10% of samples (10 out of 80) in Singapore and more than 30% of samples (9 out of 28) from northern Australia. To access the article, please visit http://www.eurosurveillance.org/ViewArticle.aspx?Articleld=19884



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