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Article Released Thu-11th-June-2009 15:00 GMT
Contact: Ruth Institution: Nature Publishing Group
 Press Release - H1N1: Origins and evolution of the current epidemic

A new analysis of the current swine-origin H1N1 influenza A virus suggests that transmission to humans occurred several months before recognition of the existing outbreak.

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H1N1: Origins and evolution of the current epidemic
DOI: 10.1038/nature08182

A new analysis of the current swine-origin H1N1 influenza A virus suggests that transmission to humans occurred several months before recognition of the existing outbreak. The work, published online in Nature today, highlights the need for systematic surveillance of influenza in swine, and provides evidence that new genetic elements in swine can result in the emergence of viruses with pandemic potential in humans.

The outbreak of swine-origin H1N1 influenza A currently stands at pandemic alert phase 5 on the World Health Organisation classification, and it is crucial that we understand what we're up against. Andrew Rambaut and colleagues use evolutionary analysis to estimate the timescale of the origins and the early development of the epidemic. They believe that it was derived from several viruses circulating in swine, and that the initial transmission to humans occurred several months before recognition of the outbreak.

The team concludes that “despite widespread influenza surveillance in humans, the lack of systematic swine surveillance allowed for the undetected persistence and evolution of this potentially pandemic strain for many years.”

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Andrew Rambaut (University of Edinburgh, UK)
Tel: +44 131 6508624; E-mail: a.rambaut@ed.ac.uk

Please note the author is travelling and it will be easier to contact him by email.

Yi Guan (The University of Hong Kong, China)
Tel: +852 2819 9830; E-mail: yguan@hku.hk Co-author

Oliver Pybus (Oxford University, UK)
Tel: +44 1865 271274; oliver.pybus@zoo.ox.ac.uk Co-author – this author has teaching commitments on Thursday 11 June but will be available intermittently for media

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