"Crazy" Scientists Recreate Deadly Spanish Flu Strain in the Lab

By Gary Cutlack on at

A strain of flu extremely similar to the Spanish Flu that wiped out more than 50 million people 100 years ago has been built in the lab. Hopefully it's a new lab with triple glazed windows and robust policy on not taking tissues home.

The point of the creation is to show that the genetic ingredients needed for deadly flu strains to pop into existence are readily out there in the wild, with today's bird flu variants using proteins similar to the one that triggered the deadly 1918 outbreak. The process of recreating the killer strain uses "avian influenza virus segments" to create the virus, with researchers saying that current bird flu strains are "only a few amino acids" away from morphing into something very deadly.

Speaking to the Guardian, former government scientific adviser Lord May said it was a "crazy" development, saying of the risk of a deadly outbreak: "Yes, there is a danger, but it's not arising from the viruses out there in the animals, it's arising from the labs of grossly ambitious people." [Cell via Sky]

Image credit: An actual real scientist from Shutterstock