Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Influenza virus: History and discovery

While the medical profession had started to recognize flu as an infectious disease in the early 1890s, four decades of laboratory work had failed to determine its cause or put its diagnoses and control on firm laboratory footings. The term “influenza” was coined by an Italian in the mid-1700’s to connote a disease resulting from miasma (bad air).

The human disease is thought to have arisen about 6000 years ago. When the influenza pandemic struck in 1918, most scientists and doctors believed it was caused by bacteria. Killing up to 100 million people worldwide, the pandemic was the deadliest in history.
A human influenza virus was not isolated until 1933. Wilson Smith, Christopher Andrews, and Patrick Laidlaw first identified the virus that causes human influenza. They discovered that they could use ferrets to isolated a ‘filterable virus’ from flu patients and with this research animal, begin to determine flu’s identity as a ‘virus disease’. Their finding was publishing in The Lancet, a British medical journal.

Seven years later, the influenza B various was isolated and 10 years after that influenza virus was isolated.

The twenty-first century’s first influenza pandemic caused by the commonly referred ‘swine flu’ virus strain (H1N1) 2009 has had a major economic impact across the world and accounted for 414,000 confirmed cases and 5,000 death worldwide.

The 2005 completion of the entire genome sequence of the 1918 H1N1 pandemic influenza virus represents both a beginning and an end. Investigators have already begun to study the virus in vitro and in vivo to better understand its properties, pathogenicity, transmissibility and elicitation of host responses.

Influenza virus: History and discovery

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