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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

New treatments may prevent future flu pandemic

I had a neat discussion last weekend with a 99-year-old man about things he experienced in his life. One of the things he decided to share with me was that he was a little boy during the flu epidemic of 1918, and he remembers the scare quite well.

He said that he even had the flu, "But I didn't die, obviously."

If a new report is true, it may not have been the flu that killed all those people back then after all, but a bacteria. This might shed new hope that another flu epidemic might be preventable with modern medicines.

According to

What killed tens of millions of people around the world in the 1918 flu pandemic actually might not have been a flu virus. A new study in the Journal of Infectious Diseases blames different agents: bacteria.

The flu virus weakened lungs, opening the door to fatal bacterial pneumonia in most of the pandemic's 50 million victims, according to researchers at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

The researchers based their findings on preserved lung tissue from 58 soldiers who were infected by the flu and died in 1918 and 1919. They found tissue changes that are the hallmarks of bacteria, not viruses, as well as the destruction of cells that
normally protect lungs from bacteria.

They also studied case reports from 1918 in which doctors said they suspected a second infection. One doctor said that the flu "condemns," but secondary infections "execute."

The new research suggests that with the availability of effective treatments for bacterial infections, a modern-day flu pandemic might not be so deadly

The emphasis in that last paragraph was added by me.

I think it's neat that scientists can do such research on tissues from so long ago, let alone the fact that scientists had the foresight way back then to take tissue samples for future research. It's also amazing that we can even do this research today.


Respiratory Therapy eBlog said...

I agree, we are much better prepared today. Technology being so advanced we are more protected. The flu pandemic, also know as the spanish flu killed 10's of millions of people, it is difficult to imagine not having the resources to cure such a beast back then.

Glenna said...

That's great news!

I was just watching a thing on the History Channel the other day about the flu pandemic of the early 1900's and it's scary. Of course they didn't have the antibiotics but can you imagine how terrifying it would be to have so many people you know that sick and dying and not be able to do anything, let alone be scared you'd get it too? I can't imagine living through something liek that.