Spanish Flu gives insight to Avian Flu
A team of
scientists think they may have uncovered clues as to why the H5N1 Avian flu
virus is lethal to humans.
In this study, carried out in
scientists infected 7 monkeys (macaques) with a reconstructed version of the
1918 flu virus and observed the progress of the illness. They showed symptoms of
infection within 24 hours of exposure.
The 1918 flu, or "Spanish
flu" as it became known, killed over 50 million people worldwide. This
latest discovery could help to understand the early progress of the H5N1
Avian flu virus and to develop treatments for the deadly disease which,
according to the World Health
Organization, has so far killed 63 % (161 out of 267) of the people it
The latest study is the first to examine the effect of the 1918 flu
virus in primates. Previous studies have been performed in mice, where it was
shown to be highly infectious and lethal.
scientists also noticed that the monkeys' normal antiviral response did not
protect against the infection. It appeared that the virus itself had switched
off the antiviral part of the monkeys' immune system and this lack of protection
contributed to the rapid and deadly progress of the disease.
with H5N1 avian flu virus have shown a similar immune system response and rapid
progression of the infection. It could be that the two strains share an ability
to switch off the antiviral part of the immune system. If that is so, it opens
the door to developing treatments that can be administered in the early stages
of the illness, perhaps to re-enable the weakened parts of the altered immune
Lessons from 1918 Spanish flu help fight AI
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