Changes in the Genome of the Influenza Virus

Scientists from Singapore and the United States have designed an automated approach to identify dangerous changes in the genome of the influenza virus with high accuracy and sensitivity, Singapore’s Agency for Science, Technology and Research said on Monday.

According to the agency, available freely as a software package called Graph-incompatibility based Reassortment Finder (GiRaF), the method can analyze large databases of influenza genomes and all eight segments of the viral genome to detect reassortments.

This approach, is the result of a three-year collaboration between Niranjan Nagarajan, senior research scientist, Computational and Mathematical Biology at the Genome Institute of Singapore (GIS), and Carl Kingsford, assistant professor of Computer Science at the University of Maryland, the United States.

Viruses typically evolve by a gradual accumulation of mutations, but in some cases new Influenza strains can emerge as a hybrid of two different strains.

This process is termed “reassortment” and represents a jump in the evolution of the virus. Influenza strains emerging from this process can acquire new skills such as the ability to replicate faster or better evade the human immune system, making it particularly important to detect such viruses from a public health perspective.

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