Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Australian National University Scientists Find Genetic Trigger For The 1918 Spanish Flu

Date:
September 12, 2001
Source:
Australian National University
Summary:
Scientists from The Australian National University (ANU) have detected evidence of an event that probably triggered the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic. The evidence is in the genetic data of the influenza virus that caused the pandemic and the researchers believe their findings could be crucial in the search to know why the virus was so deadly.

Scientists from The Australian National University (ANU) have detected evidence of an event that probably triggered the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic. The evidence is in the genetic data of the influenza virus that caused the pandemic and the researchers believe their findings could be crucial in the search to know why the virus was so deadly.

Related Articles


The 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic was the worst disease outbreak in history killing more than 20 million people as it spread around the world in 1918 and 1919.

The virus was not isolated and preserved at the time of the outbreak and scientists believed it had been lost, then in 1997 a team from the USA recovered some of its genetic material. The material was extracted from a female victim whose body was buried in permafrost in Alaska and from samples taken in1918 from two US soldiers who died in the pandemic. The US scientists reconstructed part of the genetic data (a gene sequence) of the virus and compared this with the gene sequences of other strains of influenza virus. However their analysis did not shed light on what triggered the pandemic or why it was so severe.

Dr Mark Gibbs, Mr John Armstrong and Professor Adrian Gibbs at the ANU's School of Botany and Zoology have discovered that one of the 1918 Flu genes was a hybrid that was produced from parts of two other influenza viruses, in a process called "recombination".

Their analysis indicated that this "gene splicing" occurred just before the 1918 pandemic and one of the two progenitors of the 1918 virus was an influenza strain that probably infected pigs. The results suggest that the outbreak was triggered by the recombination.

"The recombination was within the gene that codes for the haemagglutinin protein of the virus. Changes in this protein are known to increase the virulence of the influenza," Dr Gibbs said. "Recombination has not been detected before within the genes of the virus. Now the possibility that current strains may recombine needs to be investigated as new recombinant viruses may pose a threat. We may have discovered part of the reason for the extreme virulence of the 1918 Spanish Flu virus."

The team developed specialised computer software for analysing genetic data. "These programs work like those used for detecting plagiarism in a manuscript," Dr Gibbs said. "We use them to compare the sequences of a set of genes and they can detect whether one of the genes came from two sources.Recombination in influenza genes is difficult to detect, because the genetic data is carried in a code of only four chemicals (like four letters) and the genes are all very similar."

The ANU team now intends to analyse all influenza sequences to assess the risk of similar recombination events that might produce future influenza outbreaks. "This is a big task as more than 6,000 influenza genes representing several thousand different influenza strains have been isolated and sequenced since the 1930s," said Dr Gibbs.

The research is reported in the latest edition of the US Journal, Science.

For more background information and links: http://www.anu.edu.au/pad/media/releases2001/flubackgrounder.htm


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Australian National University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Australian National University. "Australian National University Scientists Find Genetic Trigger For The 1918 Spanish Flu." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 September 2001. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/09/010907081636.htm>.
Australian National University. (2001, September 12). Australian National University Scientists Find Genetic Trigger For The 1918 Spanish Flu. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/09/010907081636.htm
Australian National University. "Australian National University Scientists Find Genetic Trigger For The 1918 Spanish Flu." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/09/010907081636.htm (accessed December 21, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Health & Medicine News

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

The Best Tips to Curb Holiday Carbs

The Best Tips to Curb Holiday Carbs

Buzz60 (Dec. 19, 2014) It's hard to resist those delicious but fattening carbs we all crave during the winter months, but there are some ways to stay satisfied without consuming the extra calories. Vanessa Freeman (@VanessaFreeTV) has the details. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Sierra Leone Bikers Spread the Message to Fight Ebola

Sierra Leone Bikers Spread the Message to Fight Ebola

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) More than 100 motorcyclists hit the road to spread awareness messages about Ebola. Nearly 7,000 people have now died from the virus, almost all of them in west Africa, according to the World Health Organization. Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) In Yarumal, a village in N. Colombia, Alzheimer's has ravaged a disproportionately large number of families. A genetic "curse" that may pave the way for research on how to treat the disease that claims a new victim every four seconds. Duration: 02:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Best Protein-Filled Foods to Energize You for the New Year

The Best Protein-Filled Foods to Energize You for the New Year

Buzz60 (Dec. 19, 2014) The new year is coming and nothing will energize you more for 2015 than protein-filled foods. Fitness and nutrition expert John Basedow (@JohnBasedow) gives his favorite high protein foods that will help you build muscle, lose fat and have endless energy. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins