Another new type of influenza virus, like swine flu, which has the capability of triggering a pandemic, is being discovered by the researchers in China, reads a study published in the US science journal PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences) on Monday.
The virus has descended genetically from the H1N1 strain, which was already declared as a pandemic by WHO (World Health Organization) in 2009, and is named G4. The symptoms of G4 are very much similar to common seasonal influenza that includes fever, chills, and sore throat. Though the symptoms of the virus are similar to that of seasonal influenza, tests showed that the immunity which the human beings gain from their exposure to other seasonal flu doesn’t protect against this virus. The scientists at Chinese universities and China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention also claimed that G4 possesses “all the essential hallmarks of being highly adapted to infect humans”.
Between 2011 and 2018, researchers carried out a study in which they took 30,000 nasal swabs from pigs in slaughterhouses and more 1000 from a veterinary hospital in 10 Chinese provinces. The swabs that were collected yielded 179 swine influenza viruses, of which a maximum of the pigs was infected by the G4 virus. The G4 virus, as revealed through experiments on ferrets, is highly infectious and replicates human cells. 10.4% of swine workers had been already infected, “…farmed animals, with which humans have greater contact than with wildlife, may act as the source for important pandemic virus”, said James Wood, HOD of veterinary medicine, Cambridge University. And thus urgent measures are called to monitor people who are working with pigs.
Tests revealed that 4.4% of the general populations have been exposed to the virus as it had passed from animals to humans. Although there is yet no evidence that the virus is transferable between humans, researchers said that “…human infection of G4 virus will further human adaptation and increase the risk of a human pandemic”.