Thursday, February 01, 2007

Small changes stop flu virus spread, study finds

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Two little changes in the virus that caused the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic stopped it from spreading from one animal to another, a finding that may help determine what will cause the next pandemic, scientists reported on Thursday.

Researchers who have been studying a reconstructed version of the 1918 virus found it very easy to stop it from spreading from one infected ferret to another -- although the altered viruses still quickly killed the animals.

"Work on the 1918 virus is providing clues that are helping us evaluate other influenza viruses with pandemic potential, such as H5N1, that may emerge," said Dr. Terrence Tumpey, a U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention microbiologist who led the study.

"With this vital research, we are learning more about what may have contributed to the spread and deadliness of the 1918 pandemic," CDC' Director Dr. Julie Gerberding said in a statement.

"By better understanding how this virus spreads, we can be better positioned to slow down or stop the spread of the pandemic virus and hence be better prepared for the next pandemic."

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