• Print This Page
  • Download Adobe Acrobat

Closing in on a Killer: Scientists Unlock Clues to the Spanish Influenza Virus

There Are Always Clues...

In 1918 an Army doctor forwarded tissue samples from a patient who had died suddenly from a disease that was not well understood and caused by a microorganism that was barely known. He had no knowledge of DNA or RNA. He never could have imagined the technology that, nearly 80 years later, replicated the genetic code of a virus from the samples he sent.

Because the AFIP maintained the tissue samples, scientists were able to take the first step in unlocking the mysteries of the 1918 flu. Scientists are continuing to study the genetic structure of the 1918 influenza virus in hopes of understanding why this strain was so lethal. In 2005, Dr. Taubenberger and his colleagues were able to reconstruct the 1918 influenza virus completely link to: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/influenza/sfeature/drjeffrey.html . Today, work continues on the 1918 influenza virus in the hope that the knowledge gained could help prevent or defend against another deadly pandemic.


Closing in on a Killer
Scientists Unlock Clues to the Spanish Influenza Virus
A NATIONAL MUSEUM OF HEALTH AND MEDICINE ONLINE EXHIBIT

Additional Reading

Carol R. Byerly, Fever of War: The Influenza Epidemic in the U.S. Army during World War I (New York University Press, 2005)

Edward Coffman, The war to end all wars: The American Military Experience in World War I (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1986)

Alfred Crosby, America's Forgotten Pandemic: The Influenza of 1918 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990)

Mike Davis, The Monster at Our Door: The Global Threat of Avian Flu (New York: New Press, 2005)

Gina B. Kolata, Flu: The Story of the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918 and the Search for the Virus that Caused It (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1999)

Credits (2005)
Curation

Lenore Barbian, PhD
Alan Hawk
Adrianne Noe, PhD
Jeffrey S. Reznick, PhD

Web Development and Publicity:
Steven Solomon
Courtney MacGregor

Credits (1997)
Curation

Lenore Barbian, PhD
Lisa Berndt
Kathy Foat
Alan Hawk
Adrianne Noe, PhD
Jeffrey S. Reznick, PhD

Special Thanks
Jeffrey Taubenberger, MD, PhD
Ann Reid, MD