Amidst the Coronavirus pandemic that has infected more than 1 cr people and killed over 5 lacs worldwide, researchers have reportedly found a new strain for swine flu in China which possesses genes of pandemic potential. Even though the flu virus is transmitted from pigs, scientists fear that it can mutate and facilitate human-to-human transmission.
As per reports, the new virus strain is named G4 and it has descended from the same H1N1 strain that had caused a pandemic in 2009.
In a paper, ‘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, scientists have highlighted measures to contain the virus and close monitoring of workers in the swine industry. While researchers have noted that the new strain from swine flu is not an immediate problem but has the potential of a global outbreak and thus requires close monitoring. As per reports, people have no immunity to the virus as it is relatively new.
As per the report, the swine flu pandemic began in 2009 in Mexico. However, it was less fatal than Coronavirus as aged people had some immunity to the virus (A/H1N1pdm09), due to its similarity with other flu viruses. People are now protected from the swine flu by the annual flu vaccine. And 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.
Current vaccines cannot protect against new flu virus strain
Professor Kin-Chow Chang and other co-authors of the research paper have observed that the new virus strain can multiply rapidly in cells that line the human airways. They also noted that the current flu vaccines, available in the market today, cannot provide immunity against the new strain but stated that it can be modified to do so. Reportedly, more than one in 10 people, working in the swine industry, have already been exposed to the virus.
As per reports, the researchers conducted experiments with ferrets and found that the virus strain is highly infectious and replicates faster than other viruses and in ferrets. The study warned that human infection due to the virus can trigger a human pandemic. Scientists have been able to isolate 179 swine flu viruses from 30,000 nasal swabs of pigs between that were collected between 2011 and 2018 from slaughterhouses in 10 provinces in China.
Over 4% population already exposed
The paper found that about 4.4% of the general population have also been exposed to the new strain of the Swine flu virus. Scientists say that while evidence for the animal to human transmission of the virus existed, they failed to ascertain the human-to-human transmission aspect.
Professor Kin-Chow Chang observed, “Right now we are distracted with coronavirus and rightly so. But we must not lose sight of potentially dangerous new viruses. We should not ignore it.”