Elsewhere Online: Humans still carry antibodies from 1918 flu

Scientists have tested 32 people between the ages of 92 and 102 and found that their blood still carries antibodies created to fight the 1918 flu, responsible for killing 50 million worldwide. And the immunity still works, as tests on mice protected them from the killer flu virus.

The 1918 flu virus has “mutated out of its deadly form” and is no longer a threat (although researchers have used genetic material from flu victims to recreate the virus in a government lab, so watch out), but the antibodies created by the immune systems of those who survived that period have actually grown more potent. Scientists hope to use this study to create vaccines for future epidemics.

Money quote:

“It’s incredible. The Lord has blessed us with antibodies our whole lifetime,” said study co-author Dr. Eric Altschuler at the University of Medicine and Dentistry in New Jersey. “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.”

The study apparently was inspired by a plot in the since-cancelled TV show Medical Investigation, in which a town struck by a revival of the epidemic is saved by a transfusion from an elderly butler. TV drama, is there anything you can’t do?

The study is described by Nature magazine — I’d supply a link, but they don’t appear to be offering the article online. Here’s a link to the AP article.

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