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News > China

Virus Discovered in Chinese Pigs Has Pandemic Potential: Study

  • No evidence yet that the virus can be transmitted from human to human.

    No evidence yet that the virus can be transmitted from human to human. | Photo: Xinhua/ Lu Yun

Published 30 June 2020

Swine workers show elevated seroprevalence for G4 virus.

Chinese scientists warned Monday about a new flu virus in pigs that might lead to the "emergence of the next pandemic influenza" after a study conducted for seven years.


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The report, published on Monday in the U.S. journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), explains the virus named G4, is genetically descended from the H1N1 strain that caused a pandemic in 2009.

The researchers performed active surveillance and collected a total of 29,918 nasal swab samples from pigs in slaughterhouses in 10 provinces with high-density pig populations as well as samples from over 1,016 from pigs showing respiratory symptoms.

After the analysis, scientists discovered that a new chain of G4 EA H1N1 "possesses all of the essential hallmarks of a candidate pandemic virus" as the general population "lacked antibodies against G4 virus" and has demonstrated adaptability in humans.

Moreover, the study warns that "swine workers show elevated seroprevalence for G4 virus," as several have tested positive to the new disease, which comes as the coronavirus continues to spread across the world devastating communities and economies. 

Results point out that the G4 virus poses a serious threat to human life as it has become predominant in swine populations since 2016.

The figures revealed that 35 out of 338 swine farmers were positive for the G4 EA H1N1 virus, especially for participants between 18 years to 35 years old "indicating that the predominant G4 EA H1N1 virus has acquired increased human infectivity."

This infectivity, the study alerts, greatly enhances the opportunity for virus adaptation in humans and raises concerns for the possible generation of pandemic viruses.

Although the virus has been proved to pass from animals to humans, it has no been demonstrated yet that it can be transmitted from human to human.

"Controlling the prevailing G4 EA H1N1 viruses in pigs and close monitoring in human populations, especially the workers in the swine industry, should be urgently implemented", the authors urged.

China is the world's biggest pork consumer and it is estimated that in 2019 produced 42.55 million tonnes of the meat.

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