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Past and present: Learning from the 1918 influenza pandemic

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  • Past and present: Learning from the 1918 influenza pandemic

    BIOLOGY:
    PAST AND PRESENT:
    LEARNING FROM THE 1918 INFLUENZA PANDEMIC

    LAURA STERNICK ‘08

    sternick
    As nations around the world prepare defenses in anticipation of an avian flu outbreak, some researchers are looking to the past to find a solution. A relative of the modern bird flu, the 1918-1919 influenza strain ...
    http://www.dartmouth.edu/~dujs/wp-content/uploads/2008/05/sternick.pdf - 1399.3KB

  • #2
    Re: Past and present: Learning from the 1918 influenza pandemic

    From the article:
    On the home front, the virus killed so many that the average life span for Americans decreased by ten years.

    According to some estimates, mutations in “just 25 to 30 out of about 4,400 amino acids in the viral proteins turned the virus into a killer”

    Lately, researchers have used the newly-synthesized virus for genetic manipulations, altering parts of the sequence and monitoring how the virus’ strength is affected. In doing so, they can determine which parts of the code increase the virus’ deadliness. Identifying the killer segments may make it easier for scientists to develop antidotes

    Some scientists and government officials are concerned that printing the full genetic sequence of the virus supplies terrorists with the blueprints for a potentially devastating bioweapon. Molecular biologist Robert Ebright, of Rutgers University, expressed his misgivings about the dangers of publication: “There is a risk verging on inevitability, of accidental release of the virus; there is also a risk of deliberate release of the virus.”

    The controversial release of the 1918 virus’ genetic sequence has stimulated an ethical debate, as the research affects biological terrorism threats to national security. It remains to be seen whether the potential for discovery outweighs the potential for disaster.
    The salvage of human life ought to be placed above barter and exchange ~ Louis Harris, 1918

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