1918 virus revisited

Published: Wednesday 31 March 1999

a frozen corpse and preserved samples from victims of the 1918 flu epidemic that killed up to 40 million people worldwide show the virus resembled the common swine flu. Tissue samples from three people who died in the epidemic have provided enough genetic material to allow researchers to sequence one key gene of the virus, said a team from the us Armed Forces Institute of Pathology.

"The existing strain to which the 1918 sequence is most closely related is A/Sw/Iowa/30, the oldest classical swine flu strain," said Ann Reid and Jeffrey Taubenberger. Researchers have been eager to discover what made the 1918 strain of flu so different and deadly. The influenza pandemic of 1918 was exceptionally severe, killing 20 to 40 million people worldwide, with unusually high death rates among the young, said the team.

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