Nepal | July 14, 2020

Potential pandemic virus found in pigs in China: Study

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KATHMANDU: A study has found that a new strain of the H1N1 swine influenza virus in China has the potential to infect humans and become a pandemic.

A paper on the ‘Prevalent Eurasian avian-like H1N1 swine influenza virus with 2009 pandemic viral genes facilitating human infection’ published in the journal ‘Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences’ has shared the research findings.

The study published in PNAS claimed that the new virus strain (G4 EA H1N1) that has been discovered in China is similar to the swine flu virus of 2009 but with additional modifications. The virus can apparently grow and multiply in the cells that line the human airways.

Identified in China by scientists, the PNAS study states that pigs are considered important “mixing vessels” for the generation of pandemic influenza viruses and called for “systematic surveillance”.

The research states that pigs are considered intermediate hosts for the generation of pandemic influenza virus, and therefore, systematic surveillance of the influenza viruses in pigs is essential for early warning and preparedness for the next potential pandemic.

The PNAS report claimed that people have no immunity to the virus as it is relatively new.

Pig farm workers also showed elevated levels of the virus in their blood, the authors said, adding that “close monitoring in human populations, especially workers in the swine industry, should be urgently implemented.”

Carl Bergstrom, a biologist at the University of Washington, was quoted in Reuters as saying, “But while it is capable of infecting humans, there is no imminent risk of a new pandemic.”

The new study comes as the world grapples with the pandemic which has now infected more than 10.3 million people globally and caused over 505,300 deaths, according to Reuters data.

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