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article imageFlu pandemic of 1918 came from birds

By Tim Sandle     Feb 22, 2014 in Science
The strain of influenza that caused the 1918 flu pandemic (Spanish flu) probably came from birds, according to a new study.
The 1918 flu pandemic was one of the most devastating in human history. The pandemic began in January 1918 and continued until December 1920. It was an unusually deadly influenza pandemic. The virus infected 500 million people across the world, including remote Pacific islands and the Arctic, and killed 50 to 100 million. It wiped out between 3 and 5 percent of the world's population. It is the most serious pandemic in recorded history.
The 1918 pandemic was the first of the two pandemics involving H1N1 influenza virus (the second being the 2009 flu pandemic).
The strain of influenza responsible for millions of deaths starting in 1918 is commonly referred to as swine flu. But now researchers from the University of Arizona, University of Edinburgh, and National Institutes of Health have shown that it most likely originated in birds. They have published their reasons in the journal Nature ("A synchronized global sweep of the internal genes of modern avian influenza virus").
To draw their conclusion, the scientists constructed a tree diagram using 80,000 influenza viral genome sequences from bats, cows, pigs, birds, and humans and estimated the time of divergence independently for each host species. Their analyses showed that most of the genetic elements found in the 1918 strain came from North American avian influenza, possibly H7N7, carried by either domestic or wild birds.
Commenting on this further, co-author Michael Worobey from the University of Arizona told Nature News: "The methods we’ve been using for years and years, and which are crucial to figuring out the origins of gene sequences and the timing of those events, are all flawed."
More about Flu, Influenza, Avian flu, bird blu, Swine flu
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