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There’s a reason that your doctor, co-workers, friends, and family keep asking you if you’ve gotten your flu shot this season. Influenza outbreaks are still one of the world’s biggest health concerns.

We don’t often think of the flu as a deadly illness, but it can be. According to the World Health Organization, seasonal influenza epidemics cause approximately 3 to 5 million cases of severe illness and 250,000 to 500,000 deaths each year.

Pandemics caused by novel strains of influenza can be devastating; in 1918, for example, the so-called “Spanish flu” is believed to have been responsible for some 40 million deaths. This year, the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) reported that as of January 19, influenza was widespread in 47 states. 

Life Technologies is spearheading a global effort to understand and protect people from influenza. The Global Influenza Network, established by Life Technologies, is a partnership that brings together scientists at a number of the world’s leading government public health organizations, veterinary agencies and research institutes in a collaborative effort to increase the speed and efficiency of influenza monitoring and vaccine development. As with many communicable diseases, genome sequencing can be a useful, even game-changing tool in analyzing influenza strains and using that data to develop effective vaccines. Public health agencies have been using sequencing as part of the global influenza monitoring strategy, but time and cost constraints have limited the number of isolates that have been sequenced – to about 20% of the total number collected.  With the use of Ion PGM Sequencers, the partners of the Global Influenza Network believe that they’ll eventually be able to sequence close to 100% of the patient samples collected. And this should lead to more effective vaccines and an increased ability to accurately predict emerging pandemics – which will in turn save lives.

The Global Influenza Network is the latest example of Life Technologies’ commitment to working with health agencies around the globe. Greg Lucier, Life Technologies’ Chairman and CEO, is excited about the network’s potential. “Life Technologies exhibited leadership in infectious disease tracking during our partnership with the CDC when our scientists worked alongside federal officials to identify the cause of H1N1 outbreak in 2008. We are very proud to now bring together a group of such distinguished organizations to tackle the continued threat of influenza worldwide.” 

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