The UK’s Medical Research Council is setting up a £10 million research programme into bird flu and other diseases. The move was triggered by its recent investigation in China and Vietnam to assess whether the number of cases off bird flu in humans is higher than previously thought.

In Asia, more than 68 people have lost their lives from the fatal H5N1 strain of the virus, but fears were growing that the death toll could actually be a lot more. Fortunately, the MRC said that its visit to the Far East does not indicate that this is the case.

The MRC’s funds will be directed at evaluating the path leading to human infection with the virus, as well as how is spreads and the types of strains emerging. In addition, it is hoped that the initiative will facilitate the sharing of important medical information and help build relationships between scientists across the globe, to streamline the fight against the potential pandemic experts fear is around the corner if the virus mutates and becomes passable between humans.