New Virus Strain With ‘Pandemic Potential’ Identified In China

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A new flu virus strain, identified in pigs, has hit the workers in the swine industry. According to a study, it has all the hallmarks of a candidate pandemic virus although experts said there is no imminent threat. The study was published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), which was based on the surveillance of pigs in China from 2011 to 2018. It was found that the virus strain has become predominant since 2016 in swine populations, and it contains genetic material called G4 genotype. These G4 viruses bind to receptor molecules in human cells and attack the respiratory tract.

“Serological surveillance among occupational exposure population showed that 10.4% (35/338) of swine workers were positive for G4 EA H1N1 virus, especially for participants 18 -35 years old, who had 20.5% (9/44) seropositive rates, indicating that the predominant G4 EA H1N1 virus has acquired increased human infectivity,” the research said.

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Scientists say that the new strain of the virus is genetically similar to Swine Flu. It causes respiratory illness and can be a potential candidate of the next pandemic if it mutates and spreads from person to person. The researchers also found evidence of recent infection with the new influenza virus originating with people who worked in the swine farming industry in China. There have been urgent monitoring of pigs and the people coming in contact with them.

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This discovery of a new virus in China has come at a time when the world is struggling with the coronavirus outbreak and WHO is preparing to send a team to that country to investigate the origin of coronavirus pandemic that has infected more than one crore people and has claimed more than 5 lakh lives.

The impact of this new virus is unknown. “There’s no evidence that G4 is circulating in humans, despite five years of extensive exposure,” said a biologist at the University of Washington, Carl Bergstrom, on Twitter, “That’s the key context to keep in mind.”

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