Scientists from the Center for Disease Control have recreated the virus behind the Spanish flu that killed 50 million people in 1918. They replicated the long-gone bug to better understand the brutality of the bug and hopefully gain insight into the H5N1 avian flu virus in Asia. From Reuters:
"What can we learn from the lessons of 1918 to prepare for and mitigate against a future influenza pandemic?" (said Dr. Jeffery Taubenberger of the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology.)
Drugs and vaccines could be designed to target the mutations found in the research, Taubenberger said.
Taubenberger's team used pieces of virus taken from preserved samples from 1918 victims, as well as from the corpse of a victim dug up from a frozen grave in Alaska in 1998.
They used these pieces to make a replica of the 1918 virus, and brought it back to "life" — viruses are not truly alive like other microbes — by combining it with modern influenza virus pieces and growing it in bacteria.