Scientists study revived 1918 flu virus
March 26, 2006
Terrence Tumpey stepped into the laboratory and glanced at the dead mice. Suddenly it hit him -- the significance of what scientists were attempting.
A few days earlier, Tumpey had infected the mice with genes from the 1918 influenza virus. The virus killed 40 million to 50 million people in the worst infectious disease outbreak in recorded history, then vanished.
For years, scientists had attempted to decipher the virus' genetic code from snippets of lung tissue preserved from flu victims.
At this point in 2001, they had identified two of the virus' eight gene segments and wanted to test the effect on mice. There was no mistaking the result.
"It brought a chill down my spine because I knew that I had this deadly virus," said
How Serious Is the Risk?
March 27, 2006
Over the last year, it has been impossible to watch TV or read a newspaper without encountering dire reports about bird flu and the possibility of a pandemic, a worldwide epidemic. First Asia, then Europe, now Africa: like enemy troops moving into place for an attack, the bird flu virus known as A(H5N1) has been steadily advancing. The latest country to report human cases is Azerbaijan, where five of seven people have died. The virus has not reached the Americas, but it seems only a matter of time before it turns up in birds here
At the U.N.: This Virus Has an Expert 'Quite Scared'
Photo: Dr. David Nabarro. The chief avian flu coordinator for the United Nations, Dr. Nabarro admits that he has been accused in the past of being an alarmist
But Dr. Nabarro describes himself as "quite scared," especially since the disease has broken out of Asia and reached birds in Africa, Europe and India much faster than he expected it to.
"That rampant, explosive spread," he said, "and the dramatic way it's killing poultry so rapidly suggests that we've got a very beastly virus in our midst."