Russian flu 1977/1978 - Russische Grippe 1977/1978

As Russian Influenza one is influenza - epidemic called that occurred in 1977 and the 1978th Worldwide it claimed - depending on the source - 500,000–700,000 deaths.

root cause

It was caused by influenza viruses of the subtype A / H1N1 , the subtype that had also caused the Spanish flu in the years after 1918 . This subtype was first isolated in Northern China in May 1977 , and by January 1978 it had spread worldwide. [1] [2]

Children, adolescents and young adults under 25 years of age were primarily affected by the "Russian flu" during which the sick usually only developed mild symptoms. [3] [A 1]

This is attributed by the experts to the fact that A / H1N1 was predominant worldwide from 1918 and was only replaced by the subtype A / H2N2 , the causative agent of Asian flu , in 1957 . Many born before 1957 had therefore already been exposed to this subtype and thus had a certain immune protection , but not those born after 1957. Since the wave of the disease was limited to young people, it is usually not classified as a pandemic .

The subtype A / H1N1 of the "Russian flu" was so similar to the subtype from the years before 1957 that the suspicion quickly arose that the virus had escaped from a Soviet or Chinese laboratory in the mid-1970s . [4] The small number of deviations ( mutations ) in his genome can only be explained by the fact that the virus had literally been frozen for decades. This thesis was also represented in 1992 [5] by the renowned influenza researcher [6] Robert Webster .

The H1N1 genome of the "Spanish flu" was reconstructed in 2005 by a working group led by Jeffery Taubenberger . [7]

The Russian flu of 1889/1890 was caused by a different subtype.

See also


  • Joel O. Wertheim: The Re-Emergence of H1N1 Influenza Virus in 1977: A Cautionary Tale for Estimating Divergence Times Using Biologically Unrealistic Sampling Dates. In: PLoS One. Band 5, Nr. 6, 2010; e11184, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0011184
  • Alan P. Kendal, Gary R. Noble, John J. Skehel, Walter R. Dowdle: Antigenic similarity of influenza A(H1N1) viruses from epidemics in 1977–1978 to “Scandinavian” strains isolated in epidemics of 1950–1951. In: Virology. Band 89, Nr. 2, 1978, S. 632–636, doi:10.1016/0042-6822(78)90207-6
  • C. Scholtissek, V. von Hoyningen, R. Rott: Genetic relatedness between the new 1977 epidemic strains (H1N1) of influenza and human influenza strains isolated between 1947 and 1957 (H1N1). In: Virology. Band 89, Nr. 2, 1978, S. 613–617, doi:10.1016/0042-6822(78)90203-9


  1. With reference to the TASS news agency , German media reported in 2009 that there were 700,000 deaths: the worst flu pandemics of modern times. On:

Individual evidence

  1. Pandemics and Pandemic Threats since 1900. (Memento vom 21. Juli 2011 im Internet Archive) Auf:
  2. Pandemics & Threats 1900–2006 (Memento vom 4. März 2016 im Internet Archive) Heartland Kidney Network 12/06 QI (PDF)
  3. Edwin D. Kilbourne: Influenza Pandemics of the 20th Century. In: Emerging Enfectious Diseases. Band 12, Nr. 1, 2006, S. 9–14, doi:10.3201/eid1201.051254
  4. Death from the laboratory. ( Memento from December 25, 2011 in the Internet Archive ) In: Greenpeace magazine 1/2004
  5. Robert G. Webster et al.: Evolution and Ecology of Influenza A viruses. In: Microbiology Reviews. Band 56, Nr. 1, 1992, S. 152–179, Volltext
  6. ^ Profiles: Robert Webster. Portrait in Nature Medicine , Volume 9, 2003, p. 1445, doi: 10.1038 / nm1203-1445
  7. Ann H. Reid et al.: Origin and evolution of the 1918 „Spanish“ influenza virus hemagglutinin gene. In: PNAS. Band 96, Nr. 4, 1999, S. 1651–1656, doi: 10.1073/pnas.96.4.1651
    Ann H. Reid et al.: Characterization of the 1918 “Spanish” influenza virus neuraminidase gene. In: PNAS. Band 97, Nr. 12, 2000, S. 6785–6790, doi:10.1073/pnas.100140097
    Christopher F. Basler et al.: Sequence of the 1918 pandemic influenza virus nonstructural gene (NS) segment and characterization of recombinant viruses bearing the 1918 NS genes. In: PNAS. Band 98, Nr. 5, 2001, S. 2746–2751, doi:10.1073/pnas.031575198
    Ann H. Reid et al.: Characterization of the 1918 'Spanish' influenza virus matrix gene segment. In: Journal of Virology. Band 76, Nr. 21, 2002, S. 10717–10723, doi:10.1128/JVI.76.21.10717-10723
    Ann H. Reid et al.: Novel origin of the 1918 pandemic influenza virus nucleoprotein gene. In: Journal of Virology. Band 78, Nr. 22, 2004, S. 12462–12470, doi:10.1128/JVI.78.22.12462-12470
    Jeffery K. Taubenberger el al.: Characterization of the 1918 influenza polymerase gene. In: Nature. Band 437, 2005, S. 889–893, doi:10.1038/nature04230