Nature, 23 February 2017

Viruses: Model to accelerate epidemic responses

Correspondence by John W. McCauley

On behalf of the Scientific Advisory Council of the influenza data-sharing initiative GISAID (www.gisaid.org), we suggest that this long-standing and successful programme could be extended to help speed on-the-ground responses to other emergent viral threats.

GISAID operates under a unique Database Access Agreement that governs sharing of data in GISAID’s EpiFlu database without infringing intellectual property rights (see S. Elbe and G. Buckland-Merrett Global Challenges 1, 33–46; 2017). This enforceable agreement and the code of conduct between providers and users of data are trusted by the community, in the spirit of the World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) long-established Global Influenza Surveillance and Response System and the Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Framework, which was adopted in 2011.

Open access to these up-to- date data guides the WHO’s twice-yearly recommendations on the composition of seasonal influenza vaccines. And the prompt release of H7N9 influenza virus sequences from the first human cases in China facilitated production of candidate vaccine viruses within a few weeks (P. R. Dormitzer et al. Sci. Transl. Med. 5, 185ra68; 2013).

The latest advances in rapid gene sequencing mean that the GISAID model could now be adapted for other dangerous viruses, such as those that cause Middle East respiratory syndrome, Ebola haemorrhagic fever and Zika virus disease (see N. L. Yozwiak et al. Nature 518, 477–479; 2015).

John W. McCauley The Francis Crick Institute, London, UK.

Copyright © 2017 Macmillan Publishers Limited, part of Springer Nature  doi:10.1038/542414b  PMID: 28230113