Nature September 13, 2012
Texas is bearing the brunt of an outbreak of West Nile virus that is on track to be the worst the United States has ever experienced. Infected birds are being sent to researchers at UTMB, who extract tissue from the birds’ brains in order to grow the virus in cell culture. They store virus samples in a reference bank sponsored by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, called the Emerging Viruses and Arboviruses Reference Collection, at UTMB. Using the collection, researchers can determine how the virus has changed over time. Some of the samples go to UTMB’s Alan Barrett, who sequences the viruses to detect changes. Barrett has not completed his analysis on samples from 2012, but says that “we are definitely seeing evolution of the virus.” The article also appears in the Scientific American.