By Mark Johnson, Journal Sentinel
Since the H1N1 swine flu surfaced in 2009 in Mexico, researchers have worried that it could follow the pattern of the 1918 pandemic that killed at least 50 million people.
The 1918 virus actually emerged a year earlier. But it was not until a deadlier version developed in 1918 that the influenza truly wreaked havoc.
Now scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have examined H1N1 and discovered that a single mutation could make the flu more dangerous by removing a fundamental barrier. The 2009 H1N1, like the first version of the 1918 virus, had a protein structure that did not bind efficiently to cells in the human respiratory tract.
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