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MIT Scientists stand by Swine flu study

Indian-origin scientists at MIT, who carried out a study which suggested that swine flu virus in India might have acquired genetic mutations to ay stood by their research and called the findings "accurate", even though the Indian government has disputed their claim.

"We stand by our commentary. Based on the sequence of A/India/6427/2014 strain NIV (National Institute of Virology at Pune) deposited in the GISAID, our results are indeed accurate," Ram Sasisekharan, the Alfred H Caspary Professor of Biological Engineering at MIT and the paper's senior author told PTI in an email. The study by Sasisekharan along with Kannan Tharakaraman, a research scientist in MIT's Department of Biological Engineering was released by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) on Wednesday said that the virus may have acquired mutations that make it "more severe and infectious" than previously circulating H1N1 strains.

The NIV Pune had disputed the claim yesterday and said that the strain mentioned in the publication has "no relevance" to the 2015 outbreak. NIV, which is under the government's Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) had said the strain analysed i the publication and the data of the original H1N1 virus available with it "did not" show any of these mutations.

The biologists said that if the National Institute of Virology (NIV) Pune have different sequence information for strain than what it reported in the Global Initiative on Sharing Avian Influenza Data (GISAID) database, then an explanation in turn is needed from them for the "discrepancy". Sasisekharan said that A/India/6427/2014 sequence and that of A/North Carolina/04-2014, reported by the NIV in GISAID database are "not" similar but "different".

"Anyone can go to the GISAID database and look up this information and arrive at the same conclusion," he said. NIV had yesterday said that the virus was similar to A/North Carolina/04-2014. PTI

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