80 years ago today: MRC researchers discover viral cause of flu | Michael Bresalier

Forget bird flu and swine flu, it was ferret flu and The Field magazine that helped MRC scientists discover the influenza virus, after eleven years of dedicated research.In the spring of 1933 a team of Medical Research Council (MRC) staff gathered nasal fluids and throat garglings from a sick researcher, filtered them, and dripped them into ferrets. Within forty-eight hours the ferrets would start sneezing and displaying signs of an influenza-like disease. This research formed the basis of an extraordinarily important Lancet paper by Wilson Smith, Christopher H Andrewes and Patrick Laidlaw, published on 8 July 1933, identifying a 'virus' as the primary causative agent for influenza. This was no serendipitous finding, but the result of a sustained campaign of funding and research.The 1918-9 influenza pandemic and virus researchThe 1918-19 influenza pandemic challenged ideas about influenza, as at the time most microbiologists believed that influenza was caused by a bacteria. But during the pandemic, pathologists failed to consistently find the bacillus. This undermined claims about its primary role and jeopardised the prospect of producing a vaccine.Walter Morley Fletcher, Secretary of the MRC, suggested to the War Office and Army Medical Services that attention should be turned to the possible role of a so-called 'filter-passing virus', and in November 1918 the search for the virus began. The first British investigations into the role of a virus in influenza were carried out ...
Source: Guardian Unlimited Science - Category: Science Tags: Blogposts guardian.co.uk Medical research History of science Source Type: news

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