A new swine-flu strain with 'pandemic potential' was just found circulating in Chinese pigs
- A study published on Monday describes a new strain of
influenzafound in pigsin Chinese slaughterhouses.
- The strain is a combination of a bird-flu virus and the virus that caused the 2009 swine-flu pandemic, giving it "
pandemicpotential" in humans, the researchers wrote.
flustrain was also found in a small number of farmers, but it doesn't seem to spread human-to-human. The researchers said that could change, however.
A nearly decadelong study of Chinese pigs has found a potentially dangerous new type of influenza virus.The study, published on Monday 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 researchers behind the work warned that the flu strain has "pandemic potential."
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said at a Senate briefing Tuesday that this new virus was "not an immediate threat" but something to "keep your eye on."Given the devastation the
An emerging type of swine fluIdentifying 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 genes in a process called reassortment, leading to the creation of a new disease.
The team of Chinese researchers that conducted the new study aimed to identify those types of potentially dangerous, never-before-seen viruses in pigs. From 2011 to 2018, they looked at 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, but this one stood out.
The worrisome new strain, which the researchers named G4 EA H1N1, has emerged on a larger scale in pig populations since 2016, the study said — it was "the predominant genotype in circulation in pigs detected across at least 10 provinces," they wrote.They added that the virus was "distinct from current human influenza vaccine strains, indicating that preexisting immunity derived from the present human seasonal influenza vaccines cannot provide protection."
Whether or not the virus mutates to start spreading human-to-human will determine how dangerous it is."Controlling the prevailing G4 EA H1N1 viruses in pigs and close monitoring in human populations, especially the workers in the swine industry, should be urgently implemented," the researchers wrote.
The threat of another swine-flu pandemicH1N1, which emerged at the end of 2008, infected about 60.8 million people in the US through 2010. It was referred to as "swine flu" because it originally jumped to humans from pigs. Estimates of global H1N1 deaths range from 151,700 to 575,400. But H1N1 differed from other flu outbreaks in that 80% of the virus-related deaths were people younger than 65; in other flu outbreaks typically about 70% and 90% of deaths are people older than 65.
Scientists think mammals and birds around the globe host about 1.7 million undiscovered types of viruses. Viruses in birds, bats, and pigs are especially risky for people.
Their surveillance uncovered other concerning trends: The researchers found that the portion of pigs studied that had diseases increased over time, rising to 8.2% in 2018 from 1.4% in 2011, with a sharp increase after 2014.A similar surveillance system also exists for coronaviruses in bats. Scientists think that the novel coronavirus, known as SARS-CoV-2, jumped to people from bats, likely via an intermediary animal species.
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