Chinese researchers warn of new swine flu strain with human pandemic potential


Researchers behind a new study say a strain of flu that has become prevalent in pigs in China that can be passed to humans could become another pandemic and should be monitored closely.

The study, which was published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences focuses on an influenza found in Chinese pigs called G4 EA H1N1.

Researchers analyzed almost 30,000 swabs collected from pigs at slaughterhouses in ten Chinese provinces collected between 2011 and 2018 and found 179 swine influenza viruses, most of which were G4.

“G4 virus has shown a sharp increase since 2016, and is the predominant genotype in circulation in pigs detected across at least 10 provinces,” the researchers said in an interview with The Hill.

Two cases of G$ infections of humans have been documented, but the virus is not able to be transmitted from person to person.

Influenza viruses, however, often jump from pigs to humans, and researchers say G4’s inclusion of genes from the 2009 H1N1 pandemic may allow human to human transmission.

While some experts are calling on the virus to be monitored in fear of another pandemic, others say it is unlikely to spread.

“The likelihood that this particular variant is going to cause a pandemic is low,” Martha Nelson, an evolutionary biologist at the U.S. National Institutes of Health’s Fogarty International Center, told Science. Nelson studies pig influenza viruses and their spread to humans.