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.

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 September 1, 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 September 1, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Monday, September 1, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

We've Got Mites Living In Our Faces And So Do You

We've Got Mites Living In Our Faces And So Do You

Newsy (Aug. 30, 2014) A new study suggests 100 percent of adult humans (those over 18 years of age) have Demodex mites living in their faces. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Liberia Continues Fight Against Ebola

Liberia Continues Fight Against Ebola

AFP (Aug. 30, 2014) Authorities in Liberia try to stem the spread of the Ebola epidemic by raising awareness and setting up sanitation units for people to wash their hands. Duration: 00:41 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
California Passes 'yes-Means-Yes' Campus Sexual Assault Bill

California Passes 'yes-Means-Yes' Campus Sexual Assault Bill

Reuters - US Online Video (Aug. 30, 2014) California lawmakers pass a bill requiring universities to adopt "affirmative consent" language in their definitions of consensual sex, part of a nationwide drive to curb sexual assault on campuses. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
New Drug Could Reduce Cardiovascular Deaths

New Drug Could Reduce Cardiovascular Deaths

Newsy (Aug. 30, 2014) The new drug from Novartis could reduce cardiovascular deaths by 20 percent compared to other similar drugs. Video provided by Newsy
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:
from the past week

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