Viruses that originate in East and Southeast Asia migrate around the world and "seed" outbreaks of the most common strains of the influenza virus A (H3N2), a study released Wednesday found.
"The ultimate goal of our collaboration is to increase our ability to predict the evolution of influenza viruses," Derek Smith of Britain's Cambridge University, told reporters in a press briefing by telephone.
"The study is one step along that path and in particular highlights the importance of ongoing collaborations and surveillance in East and Southeast Asia, and expanding these collaboration in the future," he added.
The insight could help in identifying which strains of the virus will be most virulent in a given season, a step which could help manufacturers make a more effective vaccine. They note that new strains of a virus often appear after a vaccine has already been produced.
Seasonal flu hits from 5-15 percent of the world's population every year, causing three to five million serious cases and between 250,000 and 500,000 deaths every year depending on the seriousness of the strain. The vaccine effectively protects about 300 million people a year.