|NIAID senior investigator Dr. Jeffery K. Taubenberger will discuss influenza viruses past and present in the Joseph J. Kinyoun Lecture on Thursday, Oct. 5.
In 1918, an exceptionally deadly form of influenza
swept the globe, claiming as many as 50 million lives worldwide. What made the virus so lethal? Are we facing the possibility of another such pandemic — perhaps sparked by the avian influenza strain H5N1?
Influenza viruses past and future are the topic of this year's Joseph J. Kinyoun Lecture to be given by NIAID senior investigator Dr. Jeffery K. Taubenberger. The talk is scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 5, at 2 p.m. in Lipsett Amphitheater, Bldg. 10.
In 2005, Taubenberger and a team of scientists reconstructed the killer virus using lung tissue from a flu victim who died in 1918 and was buried in Alaskan permafrost. By piecing together8 gene segments of the historic virus, the researchers could better understand the unique properties of a virus that killed at least 675,000 people in the United States.
For example, they learned that the 1918 virus, unlike contemporary human flu viruses, replicated to very high levels in the lungs of mice without first having to undergo any genetic adaptations. They also found that the 1918 flu virus — like some strains of the highly virulent H5N1 bird flu virus — provoked a strong acute inflammation response in lungs of test mice.
In addition to the reconstruction of the 1918 virus, which was described in a paper published in Science, Taubenberger also coauthored a paper in Nature in 2005 that shed light on the possible animal origin of the 1918 flu. The researchers compared all the gene sequences from the 1918 virus and modern avian influenza strains and showed that the older virus was likely not a human-avian hybrid virus, such as the ones responsible for pandemics in 1957 and 1968, but rather more probably derived from an avian virus. The Lancet chose these articles jointly as the "2005 paper of the year."
Taubenberger joined NIAID's Laboratory of Infectious Diseases earlier this year, and he plans to continue work on the 1918 virus with the aim of gaining more details about its extraordinary properties. Using the 1918 pandemic as a model, he and his colleagues will also evaluate the risk that the current H5N1 virus poses as a possible cause of a future flu pandemic in the broader context of modeling influenza virus pathogenesis and evolution.
Prior to joining NIAID, Taubenberger was chair of the department of molecular pathology at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in Washington, D.C., a position he held since 1994.
He received his medical degree in 1986 and his Ph.D. in 1987 from the Medical College of Virginia. He completed his residency in pathology at the National Cancer Institute and holds board certifications in anatomic pathology and in molecular genetic pathology from the American Board of Pathology and the American Board of Medical Genetics.
A recipient of many awards and a frequent speaker at national and international meetings,Taubenberger was named the ABC News "Person of the Week" in October 2005. In 2006, he received the Outstanding Alumnus Award from the School of Medicine, Medical College of Virginia, and the Washington Academy of Science's Award for Medicine and was elected to the Association of American Physicians, among other honors.
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