BEIJING – Chinese scientists have warned in a recent study of the danger of a new strain of swine flu identified in pigs in the Asian country, which has the potential to infect humans and cause a new pandemic.
The study, led by scientist Liu Jinhua of the China University of Agriculture and published by the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), is based on more than 30,000 samples taken between 2011 and Pig airways 2018 in 10 Chinese provinces.
Scientists found 179 different swine flu viruses after analyzing the samples.
Among them is one called G4, which is a “unique combination of three lineages,” including the H1N1 strain that mutated from pigs to humans and was responsible for the 2009 flu pandemic.
The researchers conducted experiments on ferrets, which show human-like flu symptoms – such as fever or cough – when exposed to this type of virus, and concluded that the G4 strain is “highly infectious” and that it causes “severe symptoms.”
“It is especially worrisome because one of the origins of this virus also dates back to avian influenza, against which humans have no immunity,” says one of the scientists.
However, the researchers do not present evidence that the strain can be transmitted between humans: “the odds are low,” according to researcher Martha Nelson, cited by the scientific journal Science.
“But no one knew about the H1N1 strain, which jumped from pigs to people, until the first human cases appeared in 2009,” he adds.
For this reason, the researchers ask that preventive measures be taken since “it is increasingly common for pigs to become infected with viruses that have the potential to jump into humans.”
Scientists Sun Honglei and George Gao, director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, point out that “it would make sense to develop a vaccine against the G4 virus for both pigs and humans.”
Meanwhile, Chinese scientists continue to develop a vaccine for African swine fever, the outbreak of which in 2018 has interrupted the supply of this type of meat and caused the preventive slaughter of hundreds of thousands of pigs in China.
According to a study by the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences published this month in the Chinese magazine Science Daily, the vaccine is already in the phase of clinical trials in pigs, and the tests carried out to date have given good results.