Researchers find new swine flu-like virus in pigs

Henrietta Strickland
June 30, 2020

A new strain of swine flu with "pandemic potential" has been identified by scientists in China, according to a newly-released study.

The virus is for now transmitted from pigs to humans with little evidence of human to human transmission but researchers stressed that the virus has "acquired increased human infectivity".

Researchers are anxious that the strain will mutate further and cause a global outbreak by transferring from person to person easier. The new strain discovered in China is similar to the swine flu with some differences.

"It would make sense to continue to monitor this closely, and to make preparations for a vaccine for this strain - these measures have both been suggested elsewhere", says Dr Welch.

Kin-Chow told the BBC: "Right we are distracted with coronavirus, and rightly so".

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. Webster says at the very least, the seed stock to make a human vaccine-variants of a strain that grow rapidly in the eggs used to make a flu vaccine-should be produced now.

The new strain is named "G4", according to the report, and is "genetically descended from the H1N1 strain that caused a pandemic in 2009". This was the case due to many elderly people were immune to the virus.

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. "Will this one do it?"

"From the data presented, it appears that this is a swine influenza virus that is poised to emerge in humans", Edward Holmes, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Sydney who studies pathogens, told Science magazine.

With the world still very much suffering from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, news of new emerging viruses will likely be treated with more global urgency than in times of pre-Covid, and while scientists say the new virus is not an immediate problem, it has "all the essential hallmarks of a candidate pandemic virus".

From 2011 to 2018, researchers took 30,000 nasal swabs from pigs in slaughterhouses in 10 Chinese provinces and in a veterinary hospital, allowing them to isolate 179 swine flu viruses.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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