Bird flu viruses circulating in nature contain eight genes key to potentially recreate a pathogen similar to that which caused the 1918 deadly Spanish flu pandemic, a study published Wednesday said.

An international team of virologists identified the key genetic components — similar to those in the virus behind the 1918 pandemic — in influenza viruses in wild ducks.

“There are gene pools in nature that have the potential to cause a severe pandemic in the future,” said the report’s senior author and lead researcher Yoshihiro Kawaoka of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, whose work was published in the journal Cell Host and Microbe.

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