H1N1 virus lacks Spanish flu’s killer protein | Science News


H1N1 virus lacks Spanish flu’s killer protein

Molecule responsible for extent of 1918 pandemic is missing in today’s swine variant

11:22am, June 15, 2010

BOSTON — The H1N1 swine flu just doesn’t have what it takes to be a real killer, a new study of the 1918 Spanish flu suggests.

Scientists have been studying the 1918 Spanish flu virus to find out what made it so deadly. The virus caused a pandemic that killed 20 million to 40 million people — making it one of the most devastating epidemics in history.

The Spanish flu virus had a killer combination of surface proteins called neuraminidase (the N in H1N1) and hemagglutinin (the H in H1N1), and another protein called PB1-F2, says Peter Palese, a virologist at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. The combination of those three proteins made the virus a million times more virulent than an average seasonal influenza virus, he and his colleagues found.

This article is available only to subscribing members. Join the Society today or Log in.

Get Science News headlines by e-mail.

More from Science News