Message #133:
From: AzTeC SW Archaeology SIG
To:   "'Matthias Giessler'" 
Subject: Forensic Methods
Date: Fri, 21 Mar 1997 14:20:33 -0700

[ AzTeC / SWA SASIG ] :

( The article noted below is an excellent example of how [archaeological
excavation of] human remains [and forensic anthropology] have potential to
provide materials to assist the survival of persons alive today.  Speaking
of the pandemic of 1918, during a recent visit to a Tohono O'odham village,
a friend and I were discussing archaeological sites.  We watched the sun
setting over nearby hills, and my friend said... "There are lots of ruined
villages over there (pointing toward the hills), but we never go there.
Everyone was wiped out by the flu of 1918 and the ghosts are still there."
-- SASIG Ed. )

Deadly 1918 Flu Virus Mapped

NEW YORK (Reuters) -- Imagine if next year's strain of influenza was so
deadly, it killed -- in one to two years -- nearly twice the number of
people who died of AIDS in the past 15 years. And rather than striking the
elderly or ill, it occurred in 15 to 34 year olds, the group traditionally
the least susceptible to the flu. 

Such a scenario is not as far-fetched as you might think. It happened
during the 1918 flu epidemic, when a surprisingly virulent strain of
influenza killed 20 to 40 million people worldwide; 675,000 in the U.S.
alone -- 10 times the number of Americans who died during World War I. 

Now, for the first time, researchers have looked at portions of the virus,
taken from lung tissue of a 21-year-old man who died of the disease almost
80 years ago, according to a report in this week's Science. The Army
private died of influenza at Fort Jackson, South
Carolina, an area especially hard hit by the flu. 

The study reveals that the 1918 virus was unique, and that it originated in
pigs -- not birds, as previously thought, according to an analysis of nine
fragments of RNA, the building blocks of some viruses. However, it's not
yet clear what made the virus more dangerous than other influenza viruses. 

"Understanding the origins of the 1918 virus and the basis for its
exceptional virulence may aid in the prediction of future influenza
pandemics," reported lead study author Dr. Jeffery Taubenberger, of the
cellular pathology department of the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in
Washington, D.C. The researchers hope the RNA samples can help them prepare
for an unexpectedly virulent strain of flu that might occur in the future. 

Every year a new strain of influenza develops, usually originating in wild
birds, such as ducks, and is passed to domesticated pigs in Asia or other
parts of the world before spreading to humans. A vaccine is quickly
developed and administered during flu season, which runs roughly from
November to February. 

In the new study, Taubenberger and colleagues looked at lung samples from
28 different service men who died of the disease. Most of the time, the
virus is present for only the first two to six days of infection, usually
before an individual actually dies of the disease. In only one lung of one
person -- the 21-year-old soldier -- did the researchers find signs of the
virus, and the viral pneumonia that caused his death. 

According to a report accompanying the study, other researchers are also
looking at tissue samples from flu victims in an effort to uncover the
secret of why that particular virus was so virulent. 

One group of Canadian researchers is planning to look at seven miners who
died of the disease, who are buried in frozen ground in Norway. The
researchers report there is a slim chance that the bodies still contain
live virus. SOURCE: Science (1997;275:1793-1795)