While several countries around the world perform details genetic analyses of both the H5N1 strain and other influenza viruses that could contribute to a new pandemic, on a global scale the flu surveillance is in dire shape, reported Nature.
Most of the genetic sequencing occurs in response to outbreaks of disease, rather than providing sustained data that may enable outbreak prediction. In addition, reporters found that samples collected in the field reach public databases several years after they are collected, suggesting that very little of the data reflects present-day events.
“What is needed is international leadership,” reported Nature. While existing agencies such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) are involved – the WHO sequences flu for selection of the strains for the annual flu vaccine, while the FAO monitors animal health and food security – responsibility for comprehensive surveillance does not fall under the remit of either.