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Avian flu expert to speak at FMU, Feb. 13

            FLORENCE, S.C. – Dr. Terrence Tumpey, one of the world’s foremost experts on avian influenza, will speak at Francis Marion University, Monday, Feb. 13.

            The speech will be from 3:30 to 5 p.m. in the Cauthen Educational Media Center’s Lowrimore Auditorium. Admission is free and open to the public.

            Tumpey is a senior microbiologist at the Influenza Branch of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. He graduated from the University of Minnesota Duluth and earned a Ph.D. at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine.

            Tumpey and his colleagues are studying the lethal 1918 virus that killed 50 million worldwide and half a million in the U.S. alone. Their work, as reported in the October 2005 issue of Science, uses a technique called reverse genetics to re-create a living 1918 virus. First, they gathered viral DNA from the preserved tissues of people who died in 1918 and 1919 – including a woman whose body was frozen in the Alaskan permafrost.

            Tumpey’s research has determined that avian flu is genetically similar to the Spanish flu of 1918. The virus began with bird flu genes, but then mutated to become infectious to humans. The research team also found that the 1918 flu was a purely avian virus, not a hybrid. It appeared to have passed directly from birds to humans and mutated on its own. Scientists say this is one mode of viral infection and the possible cause of the rapid spread of the 1918 pandemic.

            The research offers valuable insight into the current avian flu situation in Southeast Asia.

            “By identifying the characteristics that made the 1918 influenza virus so harmful, we have information that will help us develop new vaccines and treatments,” said Tumpey. “Influenza viruses are constantly evolving, and that means our science needs to evolve if we want to protect as many people as possible from pandemic influenza.”

#124 / 2-2-06
Last Published: February 15, 2007 9:59 AM
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