Ninety years ago the Spanish flu swept across the globe, killing between 50 and 100 million people in only a few months. Since then, the specter of another flu pandemic dealing death and woe around the world has periodically terrified the medical and popular communities. But scientists searching for ways to prevent a similar outbreak in the form of the H5N1 bird flu have found a cure for the deadliest flu in the most unlikely place: nonagenarian immune systems.
A new paper in the journal Nature confirms that a team of doctors has succeeded in isolating pandemic-flu killing antibodies from 90+ year old survivors of the Spanish flu outbreak. To test whether or not the antibodies still worked, the doctors injected the immune cells into mice, and then dosed the mice with preserved copies of the 1918 flu recovered from frozen victims of the Spanish flu that had been buried in Alaskan permafrost. Within those mice, the antibodies and the virus renewed a microscopic battle that had lain dormant for almost a century. The mice that received a high dose of the antibodies lived, while mice that received a low dose of antibody, or none at all, died as expected.
While the authors of the paper indicated that understanding the immune system's ability to "remember" infections for so long could be useful in studying all manner of viral infection, it is unlikely that antibodies synthesized from survivors would be able to immediately help in a future bird flu pandemic. The 1918 Spanish flu and the modern Asian bird flu are different species, and the antibodies are probably not compatible. Rather, by understanding how the body produces and preserves flu antibodies over a lifetime doctors hope to be able to develop more effective vaccines specific to viruses like the bird flu. Currently, the common flu kills 30,000 Americans a year, so developing effective vaccines is important even without an outbreak of the more deadly pandemic strain of the disease.
30,000 Americans die each year of the common flu.
"This year, more than 300,000 Americans will die from illnesses related to overweight and obesity."
Such illnesses include diabetes, stroke, etc etc...
I think scientists and governments, and general populations have their priorities wrong...
@ scubasdsteve87: You would be right if there weren't MILLIONS of dollars per year spent on trying to cure / prevent deaths due to obesity related illness. But there is FAR more money spent on trying to cure illness and disease related to obesity than there is spent on flu research.
Not to mention, if a flu pandemic hit that wiped out 10 million or more in a matter of months, we would be begging those flu researchers to save us.
It's foolish to think that if "only" 30,000 people a year die of something (just in ONE country) it's not worth studying. For one thing, it's 30,000 people! For another, research into curing or treating one type of infection or illness often illuminates the way to better treatments for other illnesses.
The H1N1 influenza killed between 50 and 100 million people, back when the Earth had a population of about 1.5 billion.
I'd say spending a little money on research into influenza is probably worthwhile, as a repeat of a H1N1-class flu that killed roughly 3-6% of the Earth's population would be in the "bad things" category. What was most devastating about H1N1 was that the age category with the greatest number of deaths was in the 20-40 age group -- it wasn't the influenza we know now that preys on the very young and very old.
Obesity is pretty simple. Stop eating so much and walk more. Billions of dollars in research saved.
According to the CDC only 753 people died of the flu in 2002, a near 200% increase from 2001 when only 257 died from it:
Where this "30,000" figure comes from is still a mystery.