In October 2005 a team of scientists, including government researchers Dr. Terrence Tumpey from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Dr. Jeffery Taubenberger of the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, and Dr. Christopher Basler from Mount Sinai School of Medicine, published a paper in Science where they described the reconstruction of the 1918 Spanish influenza virus.
Over the past decade, Dr. Taubenberger’s lab has been sequencing the genomic RNA of the 1918 influenza virus. Lung tissue samples containing the now extinct virus were obtained from preserved archived autopsy materials and from an influenza victim who had been buried and preserved in the permafrost of Alaska. The final portion of the sequence of the 1918 influenza virus as well as a phylogenetic analysis of it compared to other influenza viruses was published in Nature in the same week as the reconstruction was published in Science. They found that it was most similar to influenza viruses that only infect birds, and that it likely developed a mutation which caused it to be able to infect and spread between humans shortly before the pandemic. The complete sequences of the coding regions for all eight viral gene segments of the 1918 influenza virus are now available on the GenBank database.