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[Perspectives] Wendy Barclay: a contagious enthusiasm for the influenza virus

In the centenary year of the 1918 influenza pandemic, the first question to an influenza virologist has to be the obvious one: could it happen again? Wendy Barclay, Professor of Influenza Virology in the Faculty of Medicine at the UK’s Imperial College London, believes it could. Or, more precisely, that there is no reason why a viral genetic recombination event shouldn’t allow it to start. The uncertainty is how it might then progress. “The world is a different place”, she says. “We have antibiotics against the secondary bacterial infections that contributed to the 1918 death rate, and we’re all healthier.” But we travel more, further, and much quicker than we did a century ago; infections spread more rapidly.

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