New strain of flu with ‘Pandemic Potential’ found in China
Researchers have discovered a new strain of flu with ‘pandemic potential’ in China.
The new virus named G4(genotype 4) has been carried by pigs across China, as UNILAD reports. According to experts, it has genetically descended from the H1N1 strain of influenza. The H1N1 strain was the reason for the 2009 pandemic.
Although researchers fear the novel virus has the potential to spread, so far, there is no ‘imminent threat’. However, it’s confirmed that humans are vulnerable to G4, but there is no official statement claiming that it can be easily transmitted amongst people. Still, whether or not the virus can jump from one person to another remains a critical question amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The U.S. journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) has recently published the researchers’ findings of G4. According to scientists from China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention and other experts, the newfound virus has ‘all the essential hallmarks of being highly adapted to infect humans’.
The paper explains that pigs are considered ‘important hosts’ when it comes to discovering new flu strains.
These particular animals are ‘essential for early warning and preparedness for the next potential pandemic’.
While conducting the study, the researchers took 30,000 nasal swabs from pigs all across China’s slaughterhouses between 2011 and 2018. They managed to isolate 179 new swine influenza viruses. Since 2016, the novel G4 virus has become predominant in swine populations.
After performing a number of tests to determine the severity of the strain, researchers revealed that being exposed to seasonal flu doesn’t guarantee immunity from G4. What’s more, at least one in 10 swine workers have already been infected with the virus.
Furthermore, the study explains that human populations, and especially those working in the swine industry, should be closely monitored. Prof. Kin-Chow Chang from Nottingham University, UK, told BBC:
“Right now we are distracted with coronavirus and rightly so. But we must not lose sight of potentially dangerous new viruses.”
The Nottingham professor believes that even though we’re in the middle of a global pandemic, other potentially dangerous viruses should not be ignored.
However, Carl Bergstrom, a biologist at the University of Washington, notes that the virus doesn’t appear to be spreading among humans.
In a follow-up tweet, Bergstrom wrote:
“So are we facing the start of a double pandemic, COVID + influenza? Not immanently. There’s no evidence that G4 is circulating in humans, despite five years of extensive exposure. That’s the key context to keep in mind.”