Chinese researchers identify new pandemic-potential swine flu in China

by Abdulmumeen S. Yitta

A study in the US science journal PNAS has revealed that Scientists in China have identified a new strain of swine flu in China that has pandemic potential.

The new study carried out by researchers from the China Agricultural University, the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention and the University of Nottingham, in the UK, between 2011 and 2018 revealed that influenza virus surveillance had led to a discovery of a new H1N1 strain which they have named G4.

The study which was released on Monday June 29, 2020, in the PNAS journal stated G4 viruses had all the essential hallmarks of a candidate pandemic virus.

“Of concern is that swine workers show elevated seroprevalence for G4 virus. Controlling the prevailing G4 EA H1N1 viruses in pigs and close monitoring in human populations, especially the workers in swine industry, should be urgently implemented,” the study stated.

The study noted that at present there is no evidence that the virus could be transmitted from human to human but it has all the hallmarks to mutate and infect human.

The virus is said to have already been passed from animals to humans.

“It is of concern that human infection of G4 virus will further human adaptation and increase the risk of a human pandemic,” said the researchers.

In a research carried out between 2011 and 2018, 30,000 nasal swabs were taken in 10 Chinese provinces in a slaughter house and a veterinary hospital. 179 swine flu viruses were isolated by the researchers.

The researchers also carried out a Serological surveillance on 338 swine workers and they found that 10.4 per cent were G4 EA H1N1 virus positive.

In participants between 18 to 35 years of age, the infection rate increased to 20.5 per cent.

While raising concerns over the virus, the researchers observed, “Such infectivity greatly enhances the opportunity for virus adaptation in humans and raises concerns for the possible generation of pandemic viruses.”

The study also showed that any immunity human may have gained from influenza vaccine does not provide protection from G4.

According to US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), H1N1 virus strains that caused pandemic in 2009 claimed about 157,000 and 575,000 lives globally with eighty percent death rate in people who were below 65 years of age.

CDC further disclosed that about one third of those above 65 had antibodies against the virus.

Speaking about the study, James Wood, head of the department of veterinary medicine at Cambridge University, noted that “The work comes as a salutary reminder that we are constantly at risk of new emergence of zoonotic pathogens.

“Farmed animals with which humans have greater contact than with wildlife may act as the source for important pandemic viruses.”

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