Single gene turns flu deadly

10:51am, October 19, 2004

The 1918 Spanish-influenza outbreak remains the worst pandemic in recorded history, killing more than 20 million people worldwide. With an eye toward preventing similar health disasters, researchers have long speculated about why the 1918 outbreak was so deadly (SN: 9/28/02, p. 196: New Drugs Beat Old Flu: Antiviral agents counter deadly 1918 influenza). Now, findings reported in the Oct. 7 Nature suggest that differences in a single viral gene made the 1918 flu strain particularly virulent.

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