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