Initial Genetic Characterization of the 1918 “Spanish” Influenza Virus

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Science  21 Mar 1997:
Vol. 275, Issue 5307, pp. 1793-1796
DOI: 10.1126/science.275.5307.1793

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The “Spanish” influenza pandemic killed at least 20 million people in 1918–1919, making it the worst infectious pandemic in history. Understanding the origins of the 1918 virus and the basis for its exceptional virulence may aid in the prediction of future influenza pandemics. RNA from a victim of the 1918 pandemic was isolated from a formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded, lung tissue sample. Nine fragments of viral RNA were sequenced from the coding regions of hemagglutinin, neuraminidase, nucleoprotein, matrix protein 1, and matrix protein 2. The sequences are consistent with a novel H1N1 influenza A virus that belongs to the subgroup of strains that infect humans and swine, not the avian subgroup.

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