Global Collaboration on H5N8 and Related Influenza Viruses

 In recognition of the frequent incidence of wild bird infections and outbreaks in poultry by influenza H5N8 and related viruses, GISAID provided the platform to facilitate an open Global Collaboration to urgently gain a better understanding of the epidemiology and evolution of the currently circulating viruses.

The purpose of this collaboration was to pool all available sequence data (and accompanying information) on clade 2.3.4 H5N8 and related H5 viruses from outbreaks around the world, perform an in-depth global phylogeographic analysis and publish the conclusions within a short time frame. 

The Global Collaboration for H5N8 and Related Influenza Viruses found that the H5 segment common to the highly pathogenic avian influenza viruses readily reassorts with other influenza viruses (see the Perspective by Russell). H5 is thus a continual source of new pathogenic variants. These data also show that the H5N8 virus that recently caused serious outbreaks in European and North American poultry farms came from migrant ducks, swans, and geese that meet at their Arctic breeding grounds. Because the virus is so infectious, culling wild birds is not an effective control measure.

The Global Consortium for H5N8 and Related Influenza Viruses. Role for migratory wild birds in the global spread of avian influenza H5N8. Science 354, 213-217 (2016)  doi:10.1126/science.aaf8852   PMID: 27738169  Corresponding author T. Kuiken (Erasmus Medical Center)