EDITORIAL

Can we beat influenza?

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Science  14 Jul 2017:
Vol. 357, Issue 6347, pp. 111
DOI: 10.1126/science.aan7961

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Summary

For the past 65 years, the Global Influenza Surveillance and Response System (GISRS), coordinated by the World Health Organization (WHO), has engaged in open and efficient sharing of information, viruses, and responsibilities. The GISRS's extraordinary longevity can be attributed to several generations of dedicated scientists and to the engagement of over 100 countries, often with limited resources. Currently, only two influenza A viruses and two influenza B clades are circulating and causing disease in humans, but 16 additional subtypes of influenza A viruses are circulating in nature (14 in birds and two in bats). Of the latter, six occasionally infect humans, providing an ever-looming pandemic threat. However, there is still a lack of fundamental knowledge to predict if and when a particular viral subtype will acquire pandemic ability. We therefore still fail to predict influenza pandemics, and this must change.