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Researchers Reconstruct 1918 Flu Virus 321

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the what's-your-function dept.
Gnpatton writes "CNN is running a story on how researchers have recreated the gene sequence for the 1918 virus which claimed 50 million lives. The mapping for the gene sequence was found on a victim frozen in Alaskan permafrost. From the article: 'Using a technique called reverse genetics, the Mount Sinai researchers used the genetic coding to create microscopic, virus-like strings of genes, called plasmids.'" Researchers are hoping that reconstructing a virus like this will help them to better understand similar problems. The structure was originally determined earlier this year.
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Researchers Reconstruct 1918 Flu Virus

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  • Ok... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by tktk (540564) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @06:31PM (#13725682)
    I'm all for tinkering, and hacking and doing stuff just because you can.

    But...please try to stick to things that can easily be killed with the tip of well-placed soldering iron.

    • Plasmids (Score:3, Informative)

      by Zouden (232738)
      Indeed. Well, just to head off about 90% of the comments which will be "oh noes the scientists will kill us all!", they are putting the DNA into plasmids, not a virus capsule. The only way this presents a danger is if they put ALL the DNA in together with the correct promoter and deliberately infected it into a mammalian host, and even then there's little chance.

      Put another way, we are much more at risk from Asian Bird Flu than we are from this virus.
      Incidentally, how is Avian Flu being reported in america
      • Re:Plasmids (Score:4, Informative)

        by ObjetDart (700355) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @07:00PM (#13725887)
        Well, just to head off about 90% of the comments which will be "oh noes the scientists will kill us all!", they are putting the DNA into plasmids, not a virus capsule.

        But...but...from TFA:

        "The plasmids then were sent to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, where they were inserted into human kidney cells for the final step in the virus reconstruction."

      • Incidentally, how is Avian Flu being reported in america?

        Regularly... and with loads and loads of fear-mongering. Everyone's tired of hearing how the world could be destroyed at any moment by a giant projectile from space. It's successor, the "super volcano" scare compaign didn't really pan-out, so bird flu is the big thing.

        Here in Aus we don't hear much, even though I (and the WHO) are convinced it's the next big pandemic.

        To that sentiment, allow me to just say:

        SARS!!! SARS!!! Oh God, won't someone ple

        • Here is a puzzle: We have the radio, TV, and newspapers telling us every day that avian flu is coming. We have a lab re-constructing the 1918 Spanish Flu. We have an executive order from Bush allowing Posse Comitatus to be thrown out the window in the case of a pandemic that will require quarantines, or other national emergency. Put these pieces together and what do you have? A recipe for a 1984-style police state coming into being using the flu pandemic as a cover story.
      • You ask how the avian flu is being reported in the US, and to that I'd answer "badly".

        There was a report a couple of weeks ago that the first fatalities due to the avian flu in the US had occured. Way into the report it came out that both victims were in their 80's. A stiff breeze would have finished them off.

        It must really disappoint the media when stuff like this doesn't rack up the body coutn. Hell, you'd think they'd have learned a lesson when SARS made them look like assholes, but I guess not.

      • Re:Plasmids (Score:5, Funny)

        by frank_adrian314159 (469671) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @07:23PM (#13726038) Homepage
        Incidentally, how is Avian Flu being reported in america?

        GW Bush used one of the questions in his press conference to jump into a little sidestream about bringing out the troops if the Republican majority was in jeop^W^W^W^W^W^W... uh, if there was an avian flu epidemic. In fact, he even said he'd use them to quarantine all of the voters in the blue^W^W^W^W... people in those cities where the outbreak occurred.

        • Re:Plasmids (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward
          I know that was a joke, but he was talking about when to allow the US armed forces to step in without being requested to do so by the governor of a state. The avian flu is an example, but in the wake of hurricane Katrina and the mess that happened in New Orleans, this is just a thinly veiled attempt to inform the US public that the states do indeed need to request the assistance of the armed forces if they want it. Perhaps GW's administration should have responded sooner, but the root of the problem in Ne
      • Asian Bird Flu (Score:4, Informative)

        by CaptainCarrot (84625) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @07:23PM (#13726039)
        Incidentally, how is Avian Flu being reported in america? Here in Aus we don't hear much, even though I (and the WHO) are convinced it's the next big pandemic.

        The press doesn't harp on it much, but anytime they mention it they call it the next big pandemic. National Geographic covers it in the current issue, and they've got a little presentation about it [nationalgeographic.com] on their website.

      • which were killed by the viruses. Nuff sed.
      • Re:Plasmids (Score:2, Informative)

        by Vornzog (409419)
        Check again.

        They've had these sequences in plasmids for years. That doesn't make news.

        They used the plasmids to make a whole bunch of RNA, transfected it into a cell line, and let the virus reassemble itself. They now have viable 1918 virus. That *is* news.

        This is potentially nasty, but if it got out of the lab, it probably wouldn't be a 1918 redo. Most everyone on earth has been exposed to the currently circulating H1N1 viruses (same type as 1918), so everyone has some immunity to the old virus.

        You wan
    • Re:Ok... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by dgatwood (11270) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @07:38PM (#13726122) Journal

      I'm all for tinkering, and hacking and doing stuff just because you can. But...please try to stick to things that can easily be killed with the tip of well-placed soldering iron.

      Just to be pedantic, most viruses can easily be killed by heat... which means that as long as they don't spread outside their container, they can easily be killed with the tip of a well-placed soldering gun. :-D

    • Re:Ok... (Score:5, Informative)

      by podperson (592944) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @07:38PM (#13726125) Homepage
      This story was covered in somewhat more intelligent detail by NPR's "All Things Considered"

      1) The Virus is being reconstructed as best they can.
      2) The researchers aren't even using Level 5 isolation because -- guess what -- they expect that we're all pretty much immune to the virus these days. (They'll be the first to go if they're wrong...)
    • Re:Ok... (Score:2, Troll)

      by HangingChad (677530)
      please try to stick to things that can easily be killed with the tip of well-placed soldering iron.

      No kidding. Let those plasmids slip into a few stray bacteria and you could have all kinds of fun on your hands. Those proteins don't take the form they do just for the fun of it. They fold certain ways, like a virus, because it's the low energy state.

      Okay, spontaneous reconstruction isn't kind of unlikely, but what a way to find out mother nature is a cast iron bitch.

      P4 labs usually know what they're

  • additional coverage (Score:3, Informative)

    by crabpeople (720852) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @06:33PM (#13725700) Journal
    Heres another article at the BBC

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/4308872.stm [bbc.co.uk]

    and another one from ABC news, about how they in their enlightened wisdom (read fearmongering) think that the asian birdflu will result in similar problems.

    http://abcnews.go.com/Health/Flu/story?id=1183172& page=1 [go.com]

    i would have posted as ANON but aparently 212 minutes since i last posted a comment is not enough time to wait between comments :(
  • by boobox (673856) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @06:35PM (#13725712)
    .. in getting them to cure the darn cold I currently have.
    • by Frangible (881728) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @07:15PM (#13725985)
      Not a cure, but... got garlic? [nih.gov]

      One hundred forty-six volunteers were randomized to receive a placebo or an allicin-containing garlic supplement, one capsule daily, over a 12-week period between November and February. They used a five-point scale to assess their health and recorded any common cold infections and symptoms in a daily diary. The active-treatment group had significantly fewer colds than the placebo group (24 vs 65, P

      • by Tackhead (54550) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @07:38PM (#13726128)
        > Not a cure, but... got garlic [nih.gov]?
        >
        > One hundred forty-six volunteers were randomized to receive a placebo or an allicin-containing garlic supplement [ ... ] The active-treatment group had significantly fewer colds than the placebo group

        Ah, Garlic. Best vegetable ever. The antisocial geek's friend.

        I prefer my garlic the old-fashioned way. One head of garlic (peel, squeeze through garlic press or otherwise grind it into mush), raw, whipped into one stick (1/4 lb) of butter. Spread over bread (cheese optional), toast, eat. Throw a teaspoon or two into a bowl of piping hot pasta (and grate some real Parmigiana Reggiano over it, none of that powdered cheese in a can crap). As a side dish, slug down a glass or two of red wine.

        Take another head of garlic, peel it, and toss 3/4 of the cloves into a whole raw chicken. Slip the rest of the cloves between the skin and the meat. Roast tha mothaplucka. Good eatin' again.

        (Whenever you roast a chicken, just throw another head of garlic into the oven next to the chicken. When the chicken's done, squeeze the now-mushy cooked garlic into a small jar. Dip a hunk of fresh artisan bread into the garlic mush, and then into some extra virgin olive oil. Yet more good eatin'!)

        Some people think I eat too much garlic. Not true. Only once have I eaten so much garlic in a single sitting that I've been able to smell garlic on my farts for the next three days.

        People at the office tend to avoid me. In fact, if I eat enough of the stuff (see above), even people whose noses are stuffed up with the flu tend to avoid me.

        Haven't had a cold in two years. Funny how things works out. Must be the garlic.

        Damn, I love garlic.

  • ah! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by toQDuj (806112) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @06:36PM (#13725725) Homepage Journal
    time to read up on Stephen King's "The Stand", to catch up on those survival techniques.... now here's hoping I'm one of that particulat fraction of society..

    B.
    • Re:ah! (Score:5, Funny)

      by Dan East (318230) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @07:19PM (#13726017) Homepage Journal
      Yeah. Let's also hope an old black woman with telepathic ability can draw all the non-evil people together so they can wage battle with the evil survivors.

      Dan East
    • by whoda (569082)
      But you are a /. reader.
      That probably meeans that when some old black lady tells you God wants you to come to Nebraska, you're gonna say fuck that nonsense and head straight to Vegas.
    • Except none of those techniques worked.
      You were either chosen by God, or your immune system had to fight it off in a very precise manner. which it was is left up to the discretion of the reader.

      me, I couldn't stand that book.

      no pune intended
    • If you start having dreams with a Dark man and an Old Black Lady. Go with the Black Lady.
  • Rebuilding an entire genetic sequence like this seems like a lot of room for mishaps. It's one thing to modify an existing sequence, and another to build up from scratch. How will researchers confirm that their new "baby" isn't some mutant Frankenstein-monster strain? Will they infect someone and then watch the symptoms, to compare against the epidemic accounts?
    • > How will researchers confirm that their new "baby" isn't some mutant Frankenstein-monster strain?

      As if the original wasn't already a mutant monster.
    • Actually, reconstructing the viral genome from scratch LESSENS the danger of unexpected elements in the sequence. The entire thing was put together from artificially constructed DNA of known sequence, making the process extremely controlled. At the end, the researchers knew exactly what they had down to the last base pair, and the goal was to accurately recreate the 1918 flu virus. So that's what they produced. If their virus was not just like the original 1918 strain, their research is not very helpful
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @06:39PM (#13725747)
    It's in my very own city.

    I'll let everyone know how everything goes if it ev
  • Are we immune ? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Gopal.V (532678) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @06:42PM (#13725764) Homepage Journal
    Being the exceedingly paranoid type, let me ask this - if we found a victim frozen in the permafrost, and viruses don't die by freezing - is it likely that some guy might actually contract this virus again and cause another catastrophe ?. Maybe some warm summer it gets into the water table or something.

    However safe the experiment in itself might have been, external contamination if the virus is out there is a serious concern. Half of Europe is immune to some strains of typhoid and plague, thanks to natural selection. But these days viruses can travel on jet airliners , in business class - they are not limited to the region of previous occurrence.

    Hopefully the current healthy diets, good healtcare and lack of a recent war should ensure that another Spanish Flu breakout cannot happen.
    • A: Yes. In TFA it says that one of the reasons this was approved is because it is believed that human's still poses immunity which was passed down from our ancestors in 1918.
      • I wouldn't be terribly confident about that immunity from almost 90 years ago. If you're a big believer in it, you should be the first to volunteer to be injected with the virus. There's probbably more immunity to it in the populace than their was in 1918, but we've had almost 3 generations to lose any genetic immunity to this strain of flu.
  • Regenesis (Score:4, Informative)

    by nettdata (88196) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @06:44PM (#13725784) Homepage
    There's an interesting TV show (Canadian, no less) called Regenesis [imdb.com] that featured just such a concept.

    Hooked me for a few episodes.

    • I was just about to comment on the same show. It was a little goofy, but I very much enjoyed watching it. Better than most anything on american TV.
  • by deanj (519759) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @07:05PM (#13725924)
    Just curious, what's the security around places like this? If these guys can hack a virus strain like this, what's the keep someone from stealing the virus and releasing back into the wild?
    • As some other poster said, the only reason this virus was approved for recreation was that we are all thought to still have the immunity to it passed down from our 'ancestors' from 1918.

      Furthermore, I'm glad wild poorly thought out conspiracies are alive and well on slashdot. It's one of the few stable things in this world, really.
  • This is exactly the kind of situation that leads to things like the T-Virus.

    Time to brush up on a little reading [thinkgeek.com].
  • One of the best TV shows to come out of Canada recently was ReGenesis [themovienetwork.ca] (available from better bittorrent sites everywhere).

    The first season had lots of stuff going on that seems to have foreshadowed recent developments in real life - the recovery of a live sample of this same flu virus, from a victim in the permafrost plays a key role in the story. An outbreak or two of Marburg Hemmoragic Fever [google.com] was also major plot device.

  • Forgive me for being cold but the black blague sent us back over 200 years.

    Yes its nice to characterize this virus but it looks like our genetics have the advantage. In a very cold statistical manor.

    Not to distract from the research which is important but this is not the end of humanity.
  • Ask a hospital worker (doctor, nurse, respiratory therapist) who has intimate knowledge of the number of ventilators their hospital has.

    Chances are, they have as many self-powered, automated, ventilators as they have intensive care beds, which in most community hospitals is perhaps a dozen.

    If a more than a few dozen patients show up with rapidly fulminating viral pneumonia, (the main cause of death in the avian flu), they whole system is quickly overwhelmed.

    Supposedly, the government has hundreds, (thous

  • by dtjohnson (102237) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @08:44PM (#13726464)
    The news is full of stuff about how deadly the bird flu will be when it strikes. Now, the news says that the 1918 flu was linked [nytimes.com]to bird flu. But those of us who are over 40 remember the same sort of talk back in 1976...about 'swine flu [haverford.edu].' Swine flu killed healthy soldiers at Fort Dix, NJ in 1976 and was alleged to be the same as the 1918 flu that killed millions. As a result, the president at the time (Ford) ordered a program of national vaccination for every man, woman and child in the United States. Most people received the 'swine flu' shot which made most who received it a little sick for 1 or 2 days. Then the swine flu didn't appear and everyone forgot about it. Now, supposedly the '1918 flu' is coming back again in the form of 'bird flu' so I have some questions:

    1) Why isn't the current president ordering vaccinations for everyone? The technology of making flu vaccines is pretty routine, even if the flue is alleged to be unusually lethal. Instead, President Bush is talking about imposing martial law and using the military to quarantine those portions of the country where the bird flu strikes.

    2) Why is the 1976 vaccine that was allegedly protective against the '1918 flu' not being resuscitated and updated to be used in 2005?
    • by DerekLyons (302214) <fairwater AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @09:25PM (#13726693) Homepage
      Why isn't the current president ordering vaccinations for everyone? The technology of making flu vaccines is pretty routine, even if the flue is alleged to be unusually lethal. Instead, President Bush is talking about imposing martial law and using the military to quarantine those portions of the country where the bird flu strikes.
      You could try something difficult like actually reading [instapundit.com] a transcript of the Presidents remarks - which answers your questions. Additionally, a little thought on the speed of modern transport versus the lethality of the virus leads one to understand why quarantine is being considered.

      But that requires thought and work. It's easier to repeat the fear mongering of the left wing blogs than to think for oneself.

  • The mapping for the gene sequence was found on a victim frozen in Alaskan permafrost.

    So you're telling me that this guy was walking around rural Alaska with the gene sequence all mapped out and written down on paper, died from the flu whose gene sequence for which he was carrying the mapping, was frozen with the paper on him, was found 87 years later, and credited with having the gene mapping all along?

    I'm sorry, that just sounds a little far-fetched. Isn't it more likely that the mapping for the gen

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