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Thai Scientists Sequence 95 Pct of Genome of H5N1 Virus

Thai scientists announced they had succeeded in sequencing 95 percent of the genome of the H5N1 bird-flu virus, saying their work would help world better tackle the fatal virus, the Nation Newspaper reported Saturday.

Yong Phuvorawan, a virologist from Chulalongkorn Hospital and head of the genome-sequencing team, was quoted as saying that knowing the all sequence of the genome of the virus would help in developing a vaccine and understanding the evolution of the virus.

The Chulalongkorn University team collected specimens from infected chickens from a farm in Nakhon Pathom province, and took four weeks to sequence 95 percent of the virus, he said, adding that the whole sequence is expected to be completed soon.

The partial genome sequence of Thai H5N1 has already been stored in genebank, the genetic-sequence database of the International Nucleotide Sequence Database Collaboration, so scientists worldwide can make use of the team's success, Yong said.

Yong also stressed that comparing the H5N1 genome sequence in Thailand with sequences of the virus from other places would also help scientists pinpoint the direction the epidemic is headed.

It is only the second time in Asia that scientists have succeeded in sequencing the H5N1 genome. Hong Kong scientists first sequenced the genome in 1997 when faced with an outbreak of the virus.

Hong Kong scientists are currently sequencing the genome of the bird-flu virus found in Vietnam, Yong added.
(Xinhua News Agency February 21, 2004)

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