that would allow the 1918 virus to become pantropic. Because clinical and pathological findings in 1918 showed no evidence of replication outside the respiratory system (Winternitz et al., 1920; Wolbach, 1919), mutations allowing the 1918 virus to replicate systemically would not have been expected. However, the relationship of other structural features of these proteins (aside from their presumed antigenic novelty) to virulence remains unknown. In their overall structural and functional characteristics, the 1918 HA and NA are avian-like, but they also have mammalian-adapted characteristics.
Interestingly, recombinant influenza viruses containing the 1918 HA and NA and up to three additional genes derived from the 1918 virus (the other genes being derived from the A/WSN/33 virus) were all highly virulent in mice (Tumpey et al., 2004). Furthermore, expression microarray analysis performed on whole lung tissue of mice infected with the 1918 HA/ NA recombinant showed increased upregulation of genes involved in apoptosis, tissue injury, and oxidative damage (Kash et al., 2004). These findings were unusual because the viruses with the 1918 genes had not been adapted to mice. The completion of the sequence of the entire genome of the 1918 virus and the reconstruction and characterization of viruses with 1918 genes under appropriate biosafety conditions will shed more light on these findings and should allow a definitive examination of this explanation.
Antigenic analysis of recombinant viruses possessing the 1918 HA and NA by hemagglutination inhibition tests using ferret and chicken antisera suggested a close relationship with the A/swine/Iowa/30 virus and H1N1 viruses isolated in the 1930s (Tumpey et al., 2004), further supporting data of Shope from the 1930s (Shope, 1936). Interestingly, when mice were immunized with different H1N1 virus strains, challenge studies using the 1918-like viruses revealed partial protection by this treatment, suggesting that current vaccination strategies are adequate against a 1918-like virus (Tumpey et al., 2004). In fact, the data may even allow us to suggest that the human population, having experienced a long period of exposure to H1N1 viruses, may be partially protected against a 1918-like virus (Tumpey et al., 2004).
Because virulence (in the immunologically naïve person) has not yet been mapped to particular sequence motifs of the 1918 HA and NA genes, what can gene sequencing tell us about the origin of the 1918 virus? The best approach to analyzing the relationships among influenza viruses is phylogenetics, whereby hypothetical family trees are constructed that take available sequence data and use them to make assumptions about the ancestral relationships between current and historical influenza virus strains (Fitch et al., 1991; Gammelin et al., 1990; Scholtissek et al., 1993) (Figure 1-5). Because influenza viruses possess eight discrete RNA segments that can move independently between virus strains by the process of