Researchers find new strain of swine flu in China with pandemic potential

Swine flu strain with human pandemic potential increasingly found in Chinese pigs

Researchers in China have discovered a new type of swine flu that is capable of triggering a pandemic, according to a study published Monday in the USA science journal PNAS.

While the new influenza has already passed from animals to humans with severe effect, scientists worry about its potential extent of passing from human to human.

According to Science, while there are mammal-related strains mixed in the new flu virus, its core is a form of bird flu to which humans, pigs and other mammals are vulnerable.

But she added that "influenza can surprise us" and noted that the pandemic H1N1 strain of 2009 was completely unknown until human cases began happening.

While swine flu viruses seldom spread to humans, the occasional leap has led to incidents such as the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, which may have infected up to one-fifth of the world's population.

The Chinese scientists in Proceedings have found evidence of recent infections involving people in China who worked at pig farms or slaughterhouses.

Given that it's a new development, people will likely have little to no immunity.

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In total, researchers took 30,000 nasal swabs from pigs, which isolated 179 swine flu viruses in total.

The virus was also found to have been readily transmitted between ferrets, a popular animal model used to study human influenza. It is to be noted that the researchers chose to use ferrets because they experience similar symptoms to humans.

"Pigs are an important reservoir host for influenza viruses where multiple viruses might first "mix" in pigs, creating new viruses that then jump to humans".

It's still unclear how lethal the G4 virus might be to humans, partly because infections so far have been sporadic. The researchers found antibodies to the G4 strain in 4.4% of 230 people studied in a household survey-and the rate more than doubled in swine workers.

In addition to stepping up surveillance, Sun says it makes sense to develop a vaccine against G4 for both pigs and humans.

While it is not an immediate problem, they say, it has "all the hallmarks" of being highly adapted to infect humans and needs close monitoring.

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