Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Fatal Immunity and the 1918 Flu Virus

ABC has this report on why the 1918 flu virus was so deadly in Fatal Immunity and the 1918 Flu Virus. The bug that spread around the word was more deadly than the last year of deaths caused by World War One. Over 50 million people died.

Siri Nillson reported, "The flu virus that killed roughly 50 million people worldwide in 1918 is alive and still very deadly. New research sheds light on how the 1918 Spanish flu virus might have killed so many people so quickly — and opens new horizons for researchers who hope to avoid a flu pandemic today. Scientists regenerated the 1918 virus Jurassic-Park-like from a frozen corpse two years ago. Now scientists have discovered that the regenerated virus can kill monkeys much as it killed humans in 1918, by kicking the immune system into dangerous overdrive, which ultimately kills the infected host."

Most of the victims were healthy people in the prime of life. Why? Because healthy people have strong immune systems. And it was the immune systems of the victims which appears to have killed them. The elderly and the very young had weaker immune systems and hence were less likely to die.

Nillson concluded, "Bottom line — new research on the regenerated 1918 flu virus shows just how deadly the virus really is. The new research could eventually lead scientists to a new therapy, to a new way of treating deadly flu viruses."

This is important as more deadly flu bugs will appear in the future to influence history. Maybe the researchers can find something which will help to short circuit the next pandemic.

1 comment:

Jennie W said...

Great post! I find the 1918 pandemic incredibly interesting, although almost completely ignored. The deaths just got tossed in with World War I and it seems that many people know nothing about it. There are some great primary sources available on the web now.

Some great additional sources on it:
http://virus.stanford.edu/uda/
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/influenza/
http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/influenza-epidemic/