The pandemic wiped out up to 100 million lives, but scientists still struggle to explain what caused it. The answers could ensure that it never strikes again

One hundred years ago this month, just as the first world war was drawing to a fitful close, an influenza virus unlike any before or since swept across the British Isles, felling soldiers and civilians alike. One of the first casualties was the British prime minister and war leader, David Lloyd George.

On 11 September 1918, Lloyd George, riding high on news of recent Allied successes, arrived in Manchester to be presented with the keys to the city. Female munitions workers and soldiers home on furlough cheered his passage from Piccadilly train station to Albert Square. But later that evening, he developed a sore throat and fever and collapsed.

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