Skip to comments.NIH scientists find earliest known evidence of 1918 influenza pandemic (and more)
Posted on 09/19/2011 12:37:08 PM PDT by decimon
Examination of lung tissue and other autopsy material from 68 American soldiers who died of respiratory infections in 1918 has revealed that the influenza virus that eventually killed 50 million people worldwide was circulating in the United States at least four months before the 1918 influenza reached pandemic levels that fall.
The study, using tissues preserved since 1918, was led by Jeffery K. Taubenberger, M.D., Ph.D., of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health. The researchers found proteins and genetic material from the 1918 influenza virus in specimens from 37 of the soldiers, including four who died between May and August 1918, months before the pandemic peaked. These four cases are the earliest 1918 pandemic influenza cases they know to be documented anywhere in the world, the scientists say.
The clinical disease and tissue damage seen in the pre-pandemic cases were indistinguishable from those evident in cases that occurred during the height of the pandemic. This suggests, says Dr. Taubenberger, that over the course of the pandemic, the virus did not undergo a dramatic change that could explain the unusually high mortality it ultimately caused.
In the current study, the autopsy materials showed that the virus replicated not only in the upper respiratory tract but also the lower respiratory tract, in a pattern very similar to that of the 2009 pandemic influenza virus. The team also found evidence that two virus variants were circulating in 1918. In one, a key viral protein called hemagglutinin bound well to receptors on human respiratory cells, while the hemagglutinin from the other variant bound less efficiently. Despite this difference in binding ability, both viruses caused similar disease symptoms and replicated in a similar pattern within cells lining the respiratory tract, suggesting that differences in hemagglutinin binding capacity alone do not fully explain the unusually high mortality seen in the 1918 pandemic.
Bacterial co-infections were found in all 68 cases studied, the researchers noted. The role played by bacterial co-infections, such as bacterial pneumonia, in contributing to deaths in the 1918 pandemic was previously described by Dr. Taubenberger and his colleagues in a 2008 study. According to the study authors, the new data underscore the crucial role that bacterial infections can play in conjunction with any influenza virus, whether historic or future, and the need for public health officials to prepare to prevent, detect and treat bacterial co-infections during future influenza outbreaks.
ARTICLE: Z-M Sheng et al. Autopsy series of 68 cases dying before and during the 1918 influenza pandemic peak. Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1111179108 (2011).
Study co-authors Jeffery K. Taubenberger, M.D., Ph.D., Laboratory of Infectious Diseases, NIAID, and David M. Morens, M.D., Office of the Director, NIAID, are available to provide comment.
CONTACT: To schedule interviews, please contact Anne A. Oplinger, (301) 402-1663, email@example.com.
NIAID conducts and supports researchat NIH, throughout the United States, and worldwideto study the causes of infectious and immune-mediated diseases, and to develop better means of preventing, diagnosing and treating these illnesses. News releases, fact sheets and other NIAID-related materials are available on the NIAID Web site at http://www.niaid.nih.gov.
About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit http://www.nih.gov/.
“...the 2009 pandemic influenza virus.”
What pandemic? I don’t remember any pandemic in 2009; does anyone else?
We were just to racist and homophobic to succumb to it!
My mom had the 1918 flu and survived, she just turned 97 last week!
Meaning widespread. Not the same as epidemic.
I know what pnademic means: 2009 was no pandemic.
Now, the 1917 - 1920 Indluenza Pandemic went everywhere, even up into Alaska above the Artic Circle.
FUBO GTFO! 488 Days until Noon Jan 20, 2013
My dad survived the 1918 flu, and would be 97, also, if he was still here. He did make it to 87, though.
What pandemic? It was the one the flu-shot companies ginned up so we had to buy a gozillion doses.
Or that it already had. In any case, there are two hypotheses of which I'm aware at the moment: first, that the influenza virus compromised the immune system sufficiently to allow for widespread death by secondary (bacterial) infection, and second, that the virus caused a catastrophic immune cascade that ended up killing the patient by itself. I think we'd need more tissue samples than we have to demonstrate which it was, and it could have been both.
My late mother, who died at almost 95, had also contracted the flu during the pandemic. She was born in 1912 and was to go to start first grade that fall, but all of the schools were closed because of the outbreak.
You are so funny!!!!
You made my evening.
I sure as heck remeber going to the hospital with a 107 fever, coughing up nasty green crap out of my lungs as my pig flu turned into pneumoia.
Sickest I’ve ever been in my life, and I’ve shot, shelled, crashed, burned, poisoned, and had my apendix out -— twice (it grew back).
“What pandemic? I dont remember any pandemic in 2009; does anyone else?”
It was the manufactured swine flu disaster the government/drug companies created so we would buy millions of Tamiflu doses—the ones that went bad when they couldn’t force everyone to get it.
Great-grandma’s brother was a soldier who survived WWI only to be cut down by the Spanish flu on the way home.
I think we lost more to disease than to fighting. I think that's been common in the history of warfare. Napoleon might have won but for losing armies to disease.
I had the Hong Kong flu and know what you mean - that was the only time in my life I wished I were dead. I was lucky it didn’t develope into pneumonia, like yours did. You have my sympathy.
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