Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Deadliest Infection in History Solved

The 1918 flu pandemic killed nearly 50 million people worldwide. The H1N1 influenza strain was incredibly virulent, taking mostly healthy victims and killing 2.5% of all those infected. Now researchers have isolated the group of 3 genes responsible for H1N1's stunning virulence. Those mutated genes caused many more deadly lung infections (pneumonia) than typical flu viruses, accounting for 1918's devastation.

(image credit: Seattle police wear masks during 1918 flu pandemic, Reuters)