Friday, October 07, 2005

The 1918 flu virus is reborn

Scientists in Atlanta have recreated the 1918 flu virus that wiped out an estimated 50m people. The researchers say that they need to find out what made it so dangerous, in order to prepare for the next influenza pandemic.

They have come to one interesting conclusion already, that the 1918 virus was an avian flu virus that jumped into humans--rather than a human virus that acquired a few genes from an avian flu. Obviously this is not good news given the outbreak of bird flu in Asia, but the researchers say that the bird flu virus has not picked up enough of the mutations it would need to jump into humans--yet.

Unhappy rebirthday, Oct 6th 2005, Scientists have recreated the 1918 flu virus in order to reveal its secrets. The Economist.

And listen:
On the 4th October 2005, scientists and government representatives briefed the world’s media about the recreation of the 1918 flu virus. They revealed that since August of this year, the virus has been contained at the Centres for Disease Control in Atlanta, where researchers have been trying to understand what made the virus so dangerous. Listen to the briefing.

Further reading
Influenza is very much the topic of the day. To keep up with this story, there are a number of blogs keeping a close eye on bird flu epidemic in Asia, and the policy machinations with regards to flu preparedness.

Bird Flu Today--news blog. Excellent source of news from around the world on this topic.

Effect Measure--a blog about science and policy in public health, focused on bird flu and the threat of pandemic influenza. At the moment there is discussion of the President's leaked flu action plan.

Avian Flu, what we need to know--a news blog.

Bird flu Updates--a news and opinion blog.

Also this week in the Economist:
Racing rockets, Oct 6th 2005. (subscription required)
Green seafood arrives, Oct 6th 2005. (subscription required). Two British fisheries are told they are eco-friendly.