A new swine flu strain with ‘pandemic potential’ was just found circulating in Chinese pigs

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A study reports the discovery of a new strain of influenza in pigs in Chinese slaughterhouses.
The new strain is a combination of a bird flu and the virus that caused the 2009 swine flu pandemic — which gives it “pandemic potential” in humans, the researchers wrote.
This flu hasn’t been seen in humans yet, but the researchers believe such a jump is possible.
Pigs can be reservoirs for new flu strains.
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A nearly decade-long study of Chinese pigs has found a potentially dangerous new type of influenza virus.

The research, published today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, describes a flu strain that shares genes with the one that caused the 2009 swine flu pandemic.

The virus is a combination of three flu strains, the scientists found: one from European and Asian birds, the flu strain that caused the 2009 swine flu outbreak, and a North American flu that has genes from bird, human, and pig flu viruses.

The new strain could pose a major threat if it jumps to humans, the researchers warned, though it hasn’t yet. Plus, because it contains parts of the 2009 swine flu, it “may promote the virus adaptation” that leads to human-to-human transmission, the researchers wrote.

Given the devastation that the coronavirus pandemic has caused, the researchers said, it’s critical to take proactive measures now to protect people against this swine flu, they added.

An emerging new type of swine flu

Identifying new virus strains in pigs is crucial for preventing another pandemic.

The 2009 H1N1 pandemic was caused by an Influenza A virus that emerged from pigs. The animals can serve as a reservoir for infectious diseases, since they can be infected with bird, pig, and human influenza strains. When multiple strains of influenza infect the same pig, the viruses can swap and replace genes, a process known as “reassortment,” leading to the creation of a new disease.

The team of Chinese researchers that conducted this study aimed to identify those types of potentially dangerous, never-before-seen viruses in pigs. The work that led them to find this new strain began in 2011 and continued through 2018. They took nearly 30,000 swabs from pigs in slaughterhouses in 10 Chinese provinces, and another 1,000 swabs from pigs with respiratory symptoms at a local veterinary teaching hospital.

The researchers found 179 virus strains in Chinese pig populations, but this one stood out.

They named the worrisome new flu strain G4 EA H1N1. That virus has emerged on a larger scale in swine populations since 2016, according to the study — it’s “the predominant genotype in circulation in pigs detected across at least 10 provinces,” the researchers wrote.

They added that the virus is “distinct from current human influenza vaccine strains, indicating that preexisting immunity derived from the present human seasonal influenza vaccines cannot provide protection.”

In testing the virus in a lab, they found that it reproduces in the respiratory system. It can spread among animals through small airborne particles. It …read more

Source:: Business Insider

      

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