2/12/2007

The deadly 1918 flu virus : Nature

The 1918 'Spanish flu' influenza pandemic was unusually severe, causing about 50 million deaths. Why was it so destructive? The lack of antibiotics to fight secondary infections, and socioeconomic factors may be relevant. But experimental infection of nonhuman primates with reconstructed 1918 virus suggests that the lethal nature of the virus itself was a big factor. It is in fact the only influenza virus lethal to experimentally infected nonhuman primates, and the 1918 virus, unlike other strains, suppresses innate immune responses. The H5N1 viruses now circulating cause a severe lung infection similar to that caused by the 1918 virus and also suppress innate immunity, so therapies that protect this type of host immunity might reduce the severity of infection due to these influenza viruses.

The deadly 1918 flu virus : Nature

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