MSU researcher combines computers, biology to track flu


Posted on 02/25/2010 Archive: MSU

A Mississippi State University researcher has found that biology and computer science make the perfect combination for tracking animal flu viruses.

Henry Wan is an assistant professor in systems biology at MSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine and has years of experience studying flu viruses. While doing graduate work in China, Wan became the first scientist to isolate the highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza virus. Soon after this discovery, highly pathogenic H5N1 outbreaks occurred in poultry in Asia, Europe and Africa. More than 440 confirmed human cases across 15 countries were also caused by this virus. About 60 percent of them were fatal.

“I became very interested in influenza viruses during my education,” Wan said. “My research centers around influenza A viruses -- where they come from, why they change and how they spread.”

Wan developed computer programs that provide information on each one of the more than 20,000 viruses’ gene segments. The program displays each gene segment and provides a map showing the distances between the segments. The information is used to determine how the segments relate to each other and group together to form different influenza viruses. Read more