In 1918, a man died of a vicious strain of “Spanish Flu” and was buried in the Alaskan tundra. Almost a century later, scientists found his well preserved body poking through some permafrost and decided to take tissue samples to a Canadian laboratory to thaw out the virus that killed the man.
Sounds like the beginning of a made-for-TV, horror movie, doesn’t it? Well, I wish it were fiction. This is a true story.
So why did the scientists revive this infectious menace? To see what it would do to modern day macaque monkeys, of course.
The BBC news reports:
“Symptoms appeared within 24 hours of exposure to the virus, and the subsequent destruction of lung tissue was so widespread that, had the monkeys not been put to sleep a few days later, they would literally have drowned in their own blood.”
The scientists say,
“This research provides an important piece in the puzzle of the 1918 virus, helping us to better understand influenza viruses and their potential to cause pandemics.”
The BBC continues:
“Analysis at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-M) revealed that a key component of the immune system, a gene called RIG-1 appeared to be involved.
Levels of the protein produced by the gene were lower in tissue infected with the 1918 virus, suggesting it had a method of switching it off, causing immune defenses to run wild. This ability to alter the body’s immune response is shared with the most recent candidate for mutation into a pandemic strain, the H5N1 avian flu.”
There is a final word from Dr. Jim Robertson, a British virologist:
“Many influenza virologists remain nervous about creating and experimenting with a reconstructed 1918 Spanish flu virus.”
Yeah, I’m nervous too.
This post originally appeared on Dr. Val’s blog at RevolutionHealth.com.