With this year’s flu season over, most of us can breathe a sigh of relief. But taming a virus as notorious and unpredictable as influenza requires year-round research efforts. Carmen Chai looks back at how far we’ve come since the deadly 1918 outbreak of Spanish Flu, and what lies ahead.
Virus particles of the H3N2 subtype of influenza, known as the Hong Kong Flu virus.
Image credit: CDC/Science Photo Library
It’s been labelled as one of the greatest pandemics in history. 100 years ago, the 1918 influenza virus, more commonly known as the Spanish Flu, brought the international medical community to its knees. Read more
A flu-infected ferret sneezing
It’s 80 years today since the identification of the flu virus by researchers at the MRC National Institute for Medical Research was published in The Lancet. John McCauley, Director of the World Health Organization Influenza Centre based at NIMR, looks back on the discovery, how it led to the vaccination programmes we see today, and the role played by ferrets.
The devastating flu pandemic of 1918 killed more than 50 million people worldwide, highlighting the urgent need for research into the disease. But it was not until 1933 that scientists at the MRC NIMR (then based at Hampstead) identified and managed to grow the virus in the lab.
It was during a large flu epidemic in the winter of 1932 to 1933 that scientists at the NIMR’s animal research outpost at Mill Hill noticed that ferrets, being used to develop a vaccine against the disease canine distemper, were suffering from the same symptoms as people with flu. Read more
In the second of a series of posts looking back on the photo archives of our 100-year history, Sarah Harrop muses on the health and safety of mouth pipetting, flu research and floral trousers.
NIMR flu researchers pipetting by mouth in the late 1960s
This photo is from the late 1960s, as the smart ties and ruler-straight side partings give away. It was taken at the WHO World Influenza Centre at the MRC National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR) in Mill Hill, north London.
Supervising is Professor Helio Pereira, a Brazilian researcher who was then Director of the centre and Head of the MRC NIMR’s Virology Division. Read more