Salam Al-Laikum Brothers and Sisters in Islam,
20 million people, including my great-grandmother, died of this terrible virus. I wonder if more people had been following Allah's injunction against eating pork, if Muslims had been more active in inviting people to Islam, would these people have suffered so terribly?
Portland, Oregon - USA
1918 FLU PANDEMIC ORIGINATED IN PIGS
From The Vancouver Sun
WASHINGTON - The 1918 influenza virus that killed more than 20 million people worldwide originated from U.S. pigs and is unlike any other known flu bug, researchers said.
They warn it could strike again.
Using lung tissue taken at autopsy 79 years ago from a U.S. army private killed by the flu, scientists at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology made a genetic analysis of the virus and concluded it is unique, though closely related to the "swine" flu.
"This is the first time that anyone has gotten a look at this virus which killed millions of people in one year, making it the worst infectious disease episode ever," said Dr. Jeffery Taubenberger, leader of the Armed Forces Institute team. "It does not match any virus that has been found since."
Although the disease that caused the worldwide epidemic was called "Spanish flu," the virus apparently is a mutation that evolved in U.S. pigs and was spread around the globe by U.S. troops mobilized for the First World War, he said.
The army private whose tissue was analyzed contracted the flu at Fort Jackson, S.C. For that reason, Taubeneberger and his colleagues suggest in the journal 'Science' that the virus be known as Influenza A/South Carolina. Science is publishing the study today.
Army doctors in 1918 conducted autopsies on some of the 43,000 servicemen killed by the flu and preserved some specimens in formaldehyde and wax.
Taubenberger said his team sorted through 30 specimens before finding enough virus in the private's lung tissue to partially sequence the genes for hemagglutinin and neuraminidase, two of the key proteins in flu virus.
"The hemagglutinin gene matches closer to swine influenza viruses, showing that this virus came into humans from pigs," said Taubenberger.
The finding supports a widespread theory flu viruses from swine are the most virulent for humans.
Most experts believe flu viruses reside harmlessly in birds, where they are genetically stable. Occasionally. a virus from birds will infect pigs. The swine immune system attacks the virus, forcing it to change genetically to survive.
The result is a new virus. When this new bug is spread to humans, it can be devastating, said Thaubenberger.
Robert Webster, a virologist and flu specialist at St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, said the study is important because "eventually we will have another influenza pandemic." Knowing what the 1918 virus was like may help researchers learn why it was so deadly and virulent, he said.
"Now we are in a better position to combat it. If it comes back, we can design a vaccine based on the that genetic sequence."
Webster said the study supports the idea health authorities should monitor viruses in pigs worldwide to develop an early-warning system of mutating flu bugs that could plague humans.