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Feature Infectious Diseases

Inside the Worldwide Influenza Centre: monitoring the constant threat of flu and other viruses

BMJ 2023; 381 doi: (Published 26 April 2023) Cite this as: BMJ 2023;381:p929

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World must prepare for next “inevitable” pandemic, flu expert warns

  1. Elisabeth Mahase
  1. The BMJ
  1. emahase{at}

The BMJ speaks to Nicola Lewis, director of the Worldwide Influenza Centre in London, about why the world isn’t prepared for another pandemic

“The threat of influenza hasn’t gone away, and it didn’t go away even when we had a covid-19 pandemic,” says Nicola Lewis.

Having joined the Francis Crick Institute last year from the Royal Veterinary College, Lewis is an expert on the ecology and evolution of influenza viruses and has spent years looking at their spread in animals and the risks they pose to the human population. She now heads up one of the world’s seven major centres responsible for analysing influenza viruses, part of the Global Influenza Surveillance and Response System: a network of 150 laboratories that continuously monitor influenza viruses worldwide, testing millions of specimens and hundreds of thousands of viruses every year.1

“I’d say that the Francis Crick Institute collaborating centre here in London has the largest geographic footprint in terms of where we take samples from. We work with approximately 50 to 90 national influenza centres routinely,” Lewis explains. “They send us clinical specimens and viruses, and then what we do is characterise them, so we’ll sequence and analyse them for their antigenic properties and also analyse them in terms of potential antiviral sensitivity or resistance.”

From there, she and her team take this information to the twice yearly …

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