Covid 19 coronavirus: New flu virus with 'pandemic potential' found in pigs

Grant Boone
June 30, 2020

"However, the news that the next viral pandemic will be caused by a new virus found in pigs might be a little premature".

It emerged recently and is carried by pigs, but can infect humans, according to scientists.

People do not have any existing immunity against it, they said.

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

"There's no evidence that G4 is circulating in humans, despite five years of extensive exposure", he said on Twitter after the paper's publication.

He said: "Right now we are distracted with coronavirus and rightly so".

Pigs are considered intermediate hosts for pandemic influenza viruses, and surveillance of such viruses is required to pre-warn "the emergence of the next pandemic influenza", the researchers wrote. Prof Chang works at Nottingham University in the UK.

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.

The Chinese scientists say that it does not pose a big threat, at least not now.

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Researchers discovered the strain after taking 30,000 swabs from pigs between 2011 to 2018 from slaughterhouses in 10 Chinese provinces and in a veterinary hospital.

Researchers then infected ferrets with the virus, as they experience similar symptoms to humans, to see how people may react to it. Almost one-third of people over the age of 60 had antibodies against the virus, "likely from exposure to an older H1N1 virus earlier in their lives", the CDC said.

David Welch of the University of Auckland's School of Computer Science says the research is interesting and "definitely needs monitoring".

When a pig catches multiple strains of influenza, it becomes a sort of a mixing vessel for viruses, which can swap and replace genetic material in a process known as reassortment.

Named G4, it is genetically descended from the H1N1 strain that caused a pandemic in 2009.

Although it was initially feared to be a serious risk to health, H1N1 ultimately turned out to be a mild illness.

The influenza A (H1N1) strain, frequently referred to as swine flu, was the source of the first influenza pandemic of the 21st century, in 2009.

Eighty per cent of the fatalities were estimated to have occurred in people younger than 65 years of age.

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