First bird flu photos published in Sweden

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First bird flu photos published in Sweden

The first photographs of the H5N1 avian flu virus, taken by science photographer Lennart Nilsson, appeared in the Swedish daily Dagens Nyeter (DN) on Sunday, in what the newspaper said was a world exclusive.


The photos show the virus as a string of blue balls attacking and destroying healthy pink cells.

Scientists fear that avian flu could cause a world pandemic if it cross with human strains and mutates into a form easily passed between people. The H5N1 strain, which has killed over 60 people in southeast Asia since 2003, has spread as far west as Croatia, apparently carried by migratory birds.

DN's science correspondent Karin Bojs told AFP that the 83-year-old photographer had initially approached US laboratories for a sample of the virus but was turned down.

In the end he obtained samples from the World Health Organisation (WHO) which were then cultivated at Stockholm's Karolinska Institute, which awards the annual Nobel science prize, she explained.

Nilsson then photographed the virus using images from a powerful microscope. The H5N1 sample had come from a father and daughter who died from the virus in Hong Kong two years ago.

It was Nilsson who first photographed the moment of human conception, published in a book in 1965 called "A child is born."

Nilsson is the Karolinska Institute's official science photographer.



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