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New possibilities for flu antiviral and vaccine research emerge from 'Spanish flu' virus

es that made the 1918 virus so exceptionally deadly. We wanted to identify the specific genes responsible for its virulence, with the hope of designing antivirals or other interventions that would work against virulent pandemic or epidemic influenza viruses," said Tumpey.

"Science is publishing this study because it provides information necessary for developing drugs and vaccines that could help prevent another global flu pandemic. We carefully considered the implications of publishing this research and concluded that the knowledge we're gaining to potentially protect public health far outweighs the risk of working with this virus," said Donald Kennedy, editor-in-chief of Science.

"We were comforted to learn that this also was the conclusion of Dr. Anthony Fauci of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Julie Gerberding of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Dr. Amy Patterson of the Office of Biotechnology Activities within the Office of Science Policy at the U.S. National Institutes of Health. Dr. Patterson is the spokesperson for the National Science Advisory Board for Biodefense (NSABB), which provides guidance and advice on the implications for dual use research and publication," Kennedy said.

To make the virus, the researchers used an approach called "reverse genetics," which involves transferring gene sequences of viral RNA into bacteria and then inserting combinations of the genes -- often after manipulating them -- into cell lines, where they combine to form a virus.

For the Science study, Jeffery Taubenberger of the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology provided the coding sequences for the eight Spanish flu genes to Christopher Basler, Peter Palese, Adolfo Garcí¡­Sastre and their colleagues at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine. They spliced these sequences together with noncoding DNA from a closely related virus, since this portion of the genome wasn't available for the Spanish flu
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Source:American Association for the Advancement of Science


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