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Old Flu Antibodies

December 7, 2009

Outbreaks of the H1N1 virus during the twentieth century left many people with long-term resistance to the swine flu.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):
Resisting swine flu…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

If you’re over 60, you may have been asked to wait to get the vaccine for H1N1 virus, or swine flu, until more supplies become available. That’s because many older people have already been exposed to some form of H1N1. Infectious disease specialist William Schaffner of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine says this means they likely still carry antibodies against the virus.

WILLIAM SCHAFFNER (Vanderbilt University School of Medicine):
You can be infected with some virus, thirty, forty, fifty, sixty, even longer years ago, and we can test you now and show that protection persists. It’s remarkable.

HIRSHON:
He says the H1N1 flu pandemic of 1918 killed millions of people around the world. But survivors were left with antibodies potent enough that mice injected with them can resist an infection by the virus that would otherwise kill them. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.