Chinese researchers identify new swine flu with pandemic potential
By Vivek Raj | Galatta | Jun 30, 2020, 02:10 pm
A new type of swine flu has been identified by China's researchers in a study published on Monday in the US science journal PNAS, which they state could trigger an outcome of a pandemic. Being called G4, it has come down genetically from the same H1N1 strain that led to a pandemic back in 2009.
The authors from Chinese universities and China's Center for Disease Control and Prevention, in their published study state the strain identified holds "all the essential hallmarks of being highly adapted to infect humans,". They have collected around 30,000 nasal swabs from pigs from 2011 to 2018 in slaughterhouses in nearly 10 Chinese provinces and in a veterinary hospital, allowing them to isolate 179 swine flu viruses.
Among the swine flu viruses found, most of them were identified to be of a new kind predominant in pigs since 2016. Several experiments on ferrets were carried out by the researchers as they are used in flu studies for they experience symptoms normally observed in humans among which include fever, sneezing and coughing. G4 was found to be highly infectious and could replicate in humans based on serious symptoms that were observed in the ferrets. Tests showed while also laying emphasis that any immunity humans gain from exposure to seasonal flu does not provide protection from G4.
According to blood tests which showed up antibodies created by exposure to the virus, 10.4 percent of swine workers had already been infected. Around 4.4 percent of the general population too had been exposed based on the tests conducted. The main worry for the scientists has been over whether the virus can pass from human to human despite no evidence for it as yet although it has been revealed to have been passed from animals to humans. Researchers in their study wrote, "It is of concern that human infection of G4 virus will further human adaptation and increase the risk of a human pandemic,".
Researchers have insisted for immediate measures to monitor people working with pigs. James Wood, head of the department of veterinary medicine at Cambridge University, in a statement said, "The work comes as a salutary reminder that we are constantly at risk of new emergence of zoonotic pathogens and that farmed animals, with which humans have greater contact than with wildlife, may act as the source for important pandemic viruses,".