Flu virus with ‘human pandemic potential’ found in Chinese pigs

Flu virus with ‘human pandemic potential’ found in Chinese pigs

Nasal swabs from more than 30,000 Chinese pigs over 7 years found an increase in an avianlike influenza virus that has swapped genes from several strains. HONGLEI SUN

By Peter Stubley 

A strain of swine flu with the potential to jump to humans and cause another pandemic has been identified by scientists.

The virus, which researchers call G4 EA H1N1, was detected through analysis 30,000 nasal swabs taken from pigs at slaughterhouses in China.

It has been described as a blend of influenza found in European and Asian birds and the H1N1 virus, which is believed to have killed up to half a million people worldwide in 2009.

The inclusion of H1N1 genes suggests the virus could adapt to spread from human to human, according to a study published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS) on Monday.

“G4 viruses have all the essential hallmarks of a candidate pandemic virus,” wrote the researchers from China Agricultural University.

Following a sharp increase in prevalence since 2016, the new strain is now “the predominant genotype in circulation in pigs detected across at least 10 provinces,” they add.

Testing of swine workers also revealed that over ten per cent tested positive for antibodies to G4. “​Such infectivity greatly enhances the opportunity for virus adaptation in humans and raises concerns for the possible generation of pandemic viruses,” the paper adds.

“Controlling the prevailing G4 EA H1N1 viruses in pigs and close monitoring in human populations, especially the workers in swine industry, should be urgently implemented.”

Read the full article in Independent UK

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