New Zealand virologist Richard Webby has provided an expert perspective on the swine flu outbreak. Now based in Memphis at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Webby is the head of a WHO Collaborating Centre that studies influenza, and has been a key player in exploring the strain which has recently caused global concern. Having analysed the genetic code of the virus and compared this to a database of thousands of other influenza strains without finding an exact match, Webby described it to press as ‘a mutt’, and offered an insight into its possible origins. Given that the ancestors of all pandemic influenza viruses come from waterfowl, he says, there is evidence the strain may have developed as a result of “the practice of using pond water to wash down the [pig] barns”. Otago University graduate Richard Webby is the protégé of fellow New Zealander Robert Webster, the first scientist to proclaim the danger of pandemics resulting from avian flu being transferred to people.