WASHINGTON, March 1 (UPI) -- U.S. scientists say the genetic blueprints of more than 2,000 human and avian influenza viruses worldwide have been completed and made public.
The milestone was announced by the Influenza Genome Sequencing Project, funded by the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. The sequence data has been made available in a public database.
"Scientists around the world can use the sequence data to compare different strains of the virus, identify the genetic factors that determine their virulence, and look for new therapeutic, vaccine and diagnostic targets," said NIAID Director Dr. Anthony Fauci.
Seasonal influenza is a major public health concern in the United States, accounting for approximately 36,000 deaths and 200,000 hospitalizations each year. Globally, influenza results in an estimated 250,000 to 500,000 deaths annually.
"A few years ago, only limited genetic information on influenza viruses existed in the public domain, and much of the sequence data was incomplete," said Maria Giovanni, who oversees the NIAID Microbial Sequencing Centers. "The Influenza Genome Sequencing Project has filled that gap ..."
The database is available at flu.lanl.gov.