Microb Biotechnol

. 2021 Jul 13.
doi: 10.1111/1751-7915.13889. Online ahead of print.
Clinical evidence that the pandemic from 1889 to 1891 commonly called the Russian flu might have been an earlier coronavirus pandemic

Harald Brüssow 1 , Lutz Brüssow 2



Contemporary medical reports from Britain and Germany on patients suffering from a pandemic infection between 1889 and 1891, which was historically referred to as the Russian flu, share a number of characteristics with COVID-19. Most notable are aspects of multisystem affections comprising respiratory, gastrointestinal and neurological symptoms including loss of taste and smell perception; a protracted recovery resembling long covid and pathology observations of thrombosis in multiple organs, inflammation and rheumatic affections. As in COVID-19 and unlike in influenza, mortality was seen in elderly subjects while children were only weakly affected. Contemporary reports noted trans-species infection between pet animals or horses and humans, which would concur with a cross-infection by a broad host range bovine coronavirus dated by molecular clock arguments to an about 1890 cross-species infection event.