Bird Flu :: Dead aristocrat may hold key to bird flu

A Yorkshire aristocrat who died nearly 90 years ago could help the global fight against bird flu, reported BBC.

A court has authorised the exhumation of the body of Sir Mark Sykes, the owner of the historic Sledmere House near Driffield. Scientists hope the Spanish flu virus from which he died in 1919 may still be present in his body because it has been preserved in a lead-lined coffin. If so, DNA samples could help experts develop drugs to fight the virus.

In 2007, nearly 90 years after Sir Mark Sykes died, permission was given by his grandchildren to exhume his body for scientific investigation. His remains were of interest because he had been buried in a lead-lined coffin, and this was thought likely to have preserved Spanish Flu viral particles intact.

Any samples taken are to be used for research in the quest to develop defences against the next flu pandemic, which many scientists believe is guaranteed to flare up at some stage in the future as a mutation of the bird flu virus named H5N1.

The Spanish Flu itself became a human infection by a mutation of an aviary virus nowadays called H1N1. There are only 5 other extant samples of the Spanish Flu and none of the other remains from which they come are as well preserved as Sir Mark’s body is expected to be.

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