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In the worldwide effort to combat the H5N1 bird flu virus, one of the most pressing aspects is openness about data. If genetic sequences of viral samples from round the world are made publicly available, this facilitates tracking, studying and containing the virus.

In this article, Martin Enserink profiles Ilaria Capua, the Italian 'influenza diva' who has set in motion the global movement to share information on bird flu: GISAID (the Global Initiative on Sharing Avian Influenza Data).

Capua braved scientists' concerns about being scooped by others if they openly share their genetic sequences. Her actions won her the annual award from ProMed, an email list run by the International Society for Infectious Diseases.

Beyond this, Capua pioneered a controversial vaccination strategy to eradicate a bird flu strain affecting poultry farms in northern Italy in 2000 and 2001.

Now her research lab is the reference point on bird flu for Italy, the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Animal Health Organization.

Link to article in Science
Reference: Science, 314, 918 (2006)

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