The H1N1 flu virus, which has been in circulation since 2009 is an heir strain of the one that caused 1918's pandemic. It was the last to strike the world before the introduction of the Wuhan coronavirus. According to an extensive study, published in Nature Communications and released today. This type of flu has been suspected since 2005. It has been confirmed by the genome analysis of several samples taken in Europe over those years, which have been preserved in medical museums as well as research centers.
"The discovery confirms what was suspected, and it, above all," said Anton Erkoreka (director of the Basque Museum of the History of Medicine), who is also the author of the book "A new history of the Spanish influenza". Parallels to covid-19 (2020). Expert recalls that the discovery of an Alaskan mass grave containing approximately 80 bodies of Eskimos who had been killed by 1918 flu in Alaska made it possible for them to determine the presence of H1N1 in their bodies in the last decade.
It was not clear if it was one influenza virus with smaller variants or if there were many that killed more than 50,000,000 people between 1918 and 1920. Some even suggest that there were 100. It was H1N1, the only flu virus, and it was given by a formidable research team, which includes Jeffery K. Taubenberger and Sebastien Calvignac Spencer, who are among the most respected experts on the subject.
The group analysed 13 samples of lung tissue from different patients. These were kept in historical archives in Germany, Austria and Germany. Sixteen samples from 1918 and 1919 had been taken between 1901-1931. They were also able to sequence two additional partial genomes in Berlin, and one more complete in Munich, in 1918.
The study authors concluded that the analysis of the remains was consistent with both local transmission and long distance dispersal events. Analyzing samples from years before the pandemic made it possible to understand how H1N1 adapted to humans. The most interesting thing about this report is the fact that the researchers have shown how different strains of flu spread from the 1918 initial strain.
This new hypothesis is contrary to the previous idea that different seasonal viruses were created by rearrangement. This is done by exchanging different virus genome segments. The new research revealed that the process can be almost traced back to the one used with the pandemic coronavirus. It was discovered in Wuhan, China two years ago. The virus then became SARS-CoV-2 and caused different waves.
It was similar to the 'great influenza' of the past century. It began in Spain in 1918, but it quickly spread to other parts of Europe. Although viruses are usually less severe than others, they can become deadly quickly. The director of the Basque Museum of the History of Medicine says that pandemics are unpredictable. The covid -alert - is growing again. Anton Erkoreka warns that young people are being infected with weak symptoms. However, it is also affecting the elderly, 70- and 80-year old segments of the population.