Researchers study 1918 flu virus

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted Oct. 16, 2006

Print  |   Email  |   Respond  |   Reprints  |   Like Facebook  |   Share Twitter  |   Tweet Linkedin

The influenza virus that caused so many deaths in 1918 and 1919 was lethal because it elicited a severe immune system response, according to a paper published in the Oct. 5 Nature.

Researchers used functional gene expression analysis on mice that were infected with a reconstructed version of this virus. They found that pro-inflammatory and cell death pathways were highly activated. This response was more severe than in animals infected with bugs that did not have a history of being quite so lethal.

"The host's immune system may be overreacting and killing off too many cells, and that may be a key contributor to what makes this virus more pathogenic," said John C. Kash, PhD, lead author and research assistant professor of microbiology at the University of Washington.

This study is the latest one to attempt to elucidate why the 1918 flu was so deadly in order to determine strategies for fighting other strains that may be just as devastating.

For instance, last month, researchers at UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School in Newark sent out a call for people born before 1915 who were around people who died in the pandemic. The goal is to profile their antibodies and determine if they can be used to provide protection if the 1918 strain recurs.

Those interested in participating should contact Eric Altschuler, MD, PhD, by phone: 973-972-5439.

Note: This item originally appeared at

Back to top



Read story

Confronting bias against obese patients

Medical educators are starting to raise awareness about how weight-related stigma can impair patient-physician communication and the treatment of obesity. Read story

Read story


American Medical News is ceasing publication after 55 years of serving physicians by keeping them informed of their rapidly changing profession. Read story

Read story

Policing medical practice employees after work

Doctors can try to regulate staff actions outside the office, but they must watch what they try to stamp out and how they do it. Read story

Read story

Diabetes prevention: Set on a course for lifestyle change

The YMCA's evidence-based program is helping prediabetic patients eat right, get active and lose weight. Read story

Read story

Medicaid's muddled preventive care picture

The health system reform law promises no-cost coverage of a lengthy list of screenings and other prevention services, but some beneficiaries still might miss out. Read story

Read story

How to get tax breaks for your medical practice

Federal, state and local governments offer doctors incentives because practices are recognized as economic engines. But physicians must know how and where to find them. Read story

Read story

Advance pay ACOs: A down payment on Medicare's future

Accountable care organizations that pay doctors up-front bring practice improvements, but it's unclear yet if program actuaries will see a return on investment. Read story

Read story

Physician liability: Your team, your legal risk

When health care team members drop the ball, it's often doctors who end up in court. How can physicians improve such care and avoid risks? Read story

  • Stay informed
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • RSS
  • LinkedIn