In a letter published recently in Nature and Science, a group of prominent flu researchers voiced their support for studies to determine the potential of the new H7N9 bird flu virus to gain or lose traits that would influence its ability to spread from person to person. They believe such research is critical to assess the possible risk associated with the virus, which was first reported in China in early April, and to give public health authorities the information they need to mount an effective and timely response in the face of a pandemic.
University of Rochester Medical Center scientists John Treanor, M.D., and David Topham, Ph.D., are authors on the letter. Together, they head up the New York Influenza Center of Excellence, one of five centers across the country that make up the National Institutes of Health’s Centers of Excellence in Influenza Research and Surveillance (CEIRS). Though Treanor and Topham’s research focuses on protecting people against seasonal flu viruses, they join their peers in advocating for such studies to be carried out at institutions within CEIRS with the appropriate facilities, safety controls and review processes in place.