Chinese researchers have discovered a new type of swine flu that can trigger a pandemic, according to a study published Monday in the U.S. scientific journal PNAS. Called G4, it is genetically descended from.
It has “all the essential hallmarks of being highly adapted to infect humans,” say the authors, scientists from Chinese universities and the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
The World Health Organization said Tuesday that it will “read carefully” the study on the new virus, with a spokesman saying that the results have highlighted the importance of the world of not lowering “our guard against the flu”
The global medical community must “be vigilant and continue surveillance, including in the
“WHO representative Christian Lindmeier said in Geneva on Tuesday.
From 2011 to 2018, researchers collected 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. Most were of a new type that has been dominant among pigs since 2016.
The researchers therefore also conducted various experiments on ferrets, which are widely used in influenza studies because they exhibit human-like symptoms – mainly fever, coughing and sneezing.
G4 has been observed to be highly infectious, replicating in human cells and causing more severe symptoms in ferrets than other viruses. Tests also showed that any immunity that humans gain from exposure to seasonal flu does not provide protection from G4.
According to blood tests that showed antibodies created by exposure to the virus, 10.4 percent of pig workers had already been infected. Tests showed that 4.4 percent of the general population also appeared to have been exposed.
The virus has therefore already passed from animals to humans, but there is still no evidence that it can be transmitted from human to human – the main concern of scientists.
“It is worrying that human G4 virus infection promotes human adaptation and increases the risk of a human pandemic,” the researchers wrote.
Questioned about the virus on Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian regularly told the press that China “has paid close attention to its development” and will take all necessary measures to prevent its spread and any outbreak.
The study authors asked for urgent measures to monitor people who work with pigs.
“The work comes as a healthy reminder that we are constantly at risk of new onset of zoonotic pathogens and that farm animals, with which humans have greater contact than wildlife, can serve as a source for important pandemic viruses. “said James Wood, head of the department of veterinary medicine at the University of Cambridge.
A zoonotic infection is caused by a pathogen that has gone from a non-human animal to a human being.