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Genes found in nature yield 1918-like virus with pandemic potential

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An international team of researchers has shown that circulating avian influenza viruses contain all the genetic ingredients necessary to underpin the emergence of a virus similar to the deadly 1918 influenza virus.

Searching public databases, the researchers, led by Yoshihiro Kawaoka of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, identified eight genes from influenza viruses isolated from wild ducks that possessed remarkable genetic similarities to the genes that made up the 1918 pandemic flu virus. The 1918 or “Spanish flu” pandemic was one of recorded history’s most devastating outbreaks of disease, resulting in an estimated 40 million deaths worldwide.

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