US-Japanese study finds genes for 1918 'Spanish flu' pandemic

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A US-Japanese research team announced Monday it had isolated three genes that explain why the 1918 Spanish flu, believed to be the deadliest infectious disease in history, was so lethal.
The pandemic killed between 20 and 50 million people, more than all of World War I, which ended in November 1918, and spread around the world.

The genes allowed the virus to reproduce in lung tissue, according to research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"Conventional flu viruses replicate mainly in the upper respiratory tract: the mouth, nose and throat," said University of Wisconsin-Madison virologist Yoshihiro Kawaoka, who co-authored the study along with Masato Hatta, also of UW-Madison.

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