New swine flu found in pigs in China with 'human pandemic potential'

According to the study pig farm workers showed elevated levels of the new virus in their blood

The new swine flu virus with three different strain combinations having the potential to become a pandemic has been discovered in China.

Liu Jinhua of China Agricultural University in Beijing and George Gao of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention led a team of researchers to investigate the influenza viruses in China's pig herds.

"But we must not lose sight of potentially unsafe new viruses", Nottingham University's Prof Kin-Chow Chang told the BBC.

Researchers found evidence of recent infections of the new virus in abattoir and swine industry workers in China.

Researchers warned that close monitoring of these environments is essential for preparing for the next potential pandemic.

Researchers found that G4 viruses were able to bind to human receptors, and could replicate themselves in the cells in human airways.

Scientists collected various blood samples and discovered that at least 10.4 per cent of swine workers have developed antibodies, hence, already been infected by the new swine flu along with almost 4.4 per cent of the general population.

Reports suggest that the new flu virus has gained traction and is becoming more infectious by day, and needs to be monitored closely. As per the CDC, most commonly, humans may get infected by such viruses due to exposure from infected pigs. It cannot be said if this new strain, if transmitted from pigs to humans, can transmit from one human to another.

According to a paper published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Chinese scientists have identified the new flu strain as G4 EA H1N1.

The study said the G4 virus "has shown a sharp increase since 2016, and is the predominant genotype in circulation in pigs detected across at least 10 provinces".

The study was published in the USA journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Swine flu occurs when multiple strains of influenza infect the same pig and then have some kind of virus orgy by swapping genes in a process called "reassortment".

The last time a flu strain came from pigs was in 2009 with the Swine Flu, which was also called H1N1. "Sure, this virus meets a lot of the basic criteria but it's not for sure going to cause a hypothetical 2020 flu pandemic, or even be a dominant strain in humans".

"Influenza can surprise us", Nelson told Science.

She added that given the relatively small sample size, it's hard to know whether the spread is a growing problem. Many older people had some immunity to it because it was similar to older strains.

While scientists say it doesn't now pose an immediate threat, "we should not ignore it".



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