May 7, 2009

Canadians unravel H1N1 flu gene sequence

Canadian scientists became the first Thursday to unravel the gene sequence of the H1N1 flu virus, the federal health minister announced in Ottawa.

Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq said the breakthrough came at the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg, Manitoba, the Canwest News Service reported.

Finding the genetic sequence opens the door for scientists to learn where the virus originated, how it evolved, how it spread, and also helps develop a specific vaccine for it, said the lab's scientific director, Dr. Frank Plummer.

The lab analyzed samples of the virus from cases discovered in Nova Scotia and Ontario.

Plummer said there was still no indication why, except for Mexico, most of North American cases were mild.

That's one of the big questions that everybody has been asking, he said. It's likely not the virus itself that is explaining the differential in severity of disease between Mexico and the rest of North America.

Plummer said the findings have been posted with the universal and public GenBank database to allow scientists worldwide to work with it, the report said.