Researchers in China have discovered a new strain of the influenza virus which they claim has the potential to turn into a pandemic. China has the world's largest population of pigs and it is found that the Chinese pigs have been infected by a virus that has similar genes as the swine flu. Named G4, the virus has the capability of infecting humans as well. According to the study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, pigs are the intermediate hosts for the generation of pandemic influenza virus.
"Systematic surveillance of influenza viruses in pigs is a key measure for prewarning the emergence of the next pandemic influenza," said study authors from the China Agricultural University in Beijing. Researchers have claimed that the new strain of swine flu is a descendent of the H1N1 virus. with properties similar to the European avian-like (EA) H1N1 virus that had caused the 2009 pandemic in Mexico (pdm09).
This is a cause of great concern as the world is already undergoing a crisis with escalating coronavirus pandemic, it is not ready to face another pandemic. The H1N1 virus had caused a pandemic in 2009 as it can grow and multiply in the cells that line the human airways.
Why you should worry?
G4 EA H1N1 flu virus is already spreading among the swine population in China. Researchers have taken 30,000 nasal swabs from pigs in slaughterhouses in 10 Chinese provinces between 2011 and 2018 and have found the genotype 1 (G1) strain. Also, this virus has the capability to attach itself to the human cells. It attacks the trachea and eventually the lung which can cause death. In 2009, many people succumbed to the swine flu.
The most worrisome thing is that there is no particular vaccine for his strain of influenza. 10 swine workers have already been infected by the virus. While researchers have found that the virus can spread from animal to human, there is still no evidence about the passing to the G4 virus from human to human.
"Controlling the prevailing G4 viruses in pigs and close monitoring in human populations, especially the workers in the swine industry, should be urgently implemented," they added.
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