Firm urges WHO to issue bird-flu sequences

June 2, 2006 at 4:23 PM

PITTSBURGH, June 2 (UPI) -- Recombinomics Friday called for the World Health Organization to release all gene sequences of the bird-flu H5N1 virus.

The company noted in a statement it has patent-pending sequence analysis methods that can trace origins of isolates and predict sequence changes.

Recombinomics said the release of the viral gene sequences is critical because, based on the largest and most devastating cluster of bird flu that occurred recently in Indonesia, "the disease onset dates for cluster members strongly supported sequential transmission of H5N1."

Recombinomics added, "Sequences from this outbreak and early human cases in Indonesia are sequestered at the World Health Organization's ... private database."

Only one sequence from an Indonesian H5N1 patient has been released publicly so far, the firm noted.

The description of H5N1 sequences from the Indonesian cases show that at least three distinct H5N1 strains are circulating in humans in that country, the company said.

The most common strain is similar to the publicly available sequence, which has a novel cleavage site that has not been previously reported in poultry in Indonesia or elsewhere, Recombinomics said.

A second strain has the "wild type" cleavage, the company said, adding that that strain is "associated with increased virulence in mammals and an almost universal fatality rate in humans."

A third strain 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 argued.

"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," said Recombinomics President Henry Niman. "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."

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