Reconstruction of the 1918 Influenza Virus: Unexpected Rewards from the Past

See on Scoop.itVirology News

“The influenza pandemic of 1918–1919 killed approximately 50 million people. The unusually severe morbidity and mortality associated with the pandemic spurred physicians and scientists to isolate the etiologic agent, but the virus was not isolated in 1918. In 1996, it became possible to recover and sequence highly degraded fragments of influenza viral RNA retained in preserved tissues from several 1918 victims. These viral RNA sequences eventually permitted reconstruction of the complete 1918 virus, which has yielded, almost a century after the deaths of its victims, novel insights into influenza virus biology and pathogenesis and has provided important information about how to prevent and control future pandemics.”


ProMed Mail [ProMED Digest V2012 #487] adds this analysis:


“By sequencing the 1918 virus, researchers were able to confirm that
the viruses that caused influenza pandemics in 1957, 1968, and 2009 were all descended in part from the 1918 virus. Studies showed that the 2009 pandemic virus had structural similarities with the 1918
virus and explained why younger people, who had never been exposed to the 1918 virus or its early descendants, were most vulnerable to infection by the 2009 influenza virus


As a result, public health officials were able to target limited
vaccine supplies to predominantly younger people, who needed vaccine protection most, rather than the elderly, who were at lower risk of infection in 2009 but are traditionally the most important target group for vaccination. Further, determining the physical structure of parts of the 1918 virus, particularly the portions that are consistent across influenza viruses, has informed the ongoing development of candidate “universal” influenza vaccines that may be given infrequently yet protect broadly against multiple influenza viruses.”


Pandemic reassortment graphic courtesy of Russell Kightely Media

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2 Responses to “Reconstruction of the 1918 Influenza Virus: Unexpected Rewards from the Past”

  1. gsgs Says:

    why was that paper written ? To justify the publishing of
    the 1918-sequences ? Obviously NIH (Fauci) is biased here.
    I can see no “rewards”..But I do see the risk that someone
    uses it as a weapon in the future

    • rybicki Says:

      Yaaaaaaaah…I can see some rewards. I also don’t really see a downside, seeing as the present H1N1pdm vaccine protects against teh 1918 H1N1, as it happens. OK, that entails getting vaccinated, but on the other hand, MANY people will have had the H1N1pdm virus by now, seeing as it has now been circulating for 5 years as seasonal flu?

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