Researchers in China have discovered a new form of swine flu that can infect humans and believe it has the potential to cause a future pandemic. This swine flu was called the G4 virus and is related to the H1N1 flu that caused a widespread disease in 2009. The G4 virus is the subject of a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). For the study, the researchers collected over 30,000 pig swab samples from slaughterhouses and veterinary teaching hospitals in 10 Chinese provinces from 2011 to 2018. Researchers identified nearly 180 types of swine flu virus, but only a few were worrying .
One of them was the G4 virus, which continued to reappear every year, even when other types of swine flu diminished or disappeared over time. The G4 virus is a recently discovered strain of the H1N1 flu virus. It’s basically a virus found in pigs, but it has combined the swine flu virus with the H1N1 virus that circulates in humans, explains Amesh A. Adalja, MD principal investigator at the Johns Hopkins Center for Safety Of health. It has the power to become a human virus”. Unsurprisingly, researchers discovered the G4 virus says William Schaffner M.D. infectious disease specialist and professor at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.
We now have the ability to look for variant influenza viruses and investigate them to the extent we’ve never had them before, he says. The more you look for it, the more you will find. Researchers from the PNAS study found that the G4 virus has already infected some people in China, noting that over 10% of pigs in pig farms and 4.4% of people in the general population in the provinces of Hebei and Shandong, which have a large pig population, tested positive for the virus between 2016 and 2018. But the fact that the virus has appeared in humans for years and has not caused a global pandemic is a good sign, says Dr. Schaffner . It hasn’t taken off yet. There must be something that doesn’t have explosive potential or that it doesn’t have yet, he says. It still does not seem to be the case if this can be transmitted in the way the flu is transmitted from person to person.
However, there is enough for these investigators to send a warning. The G4 virus mentioned in the related report is a subtype of the H1N1 virus, Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said in a routine briefing. Experts concluded that the sample size of the report is small and unrepresentative. Zhao added that “competent departments and experts” will continue to intensify the monitoring of the disease, issuing warnings and managing it in a timely manner.
G4 was found to be highly infectious, replicated in human cells and caused more severe symptoms in ferrets than other viruses. Urinary tract infections are mainly caused by uropathogenic E.coli and bacteriophage G4 can be used to treat it. The bacteriophage injects its DNA into the bacteria, releasing many new bacteriophages. This process has many advantages:
- Bacteriophage does not attack animal or human cells, only E.coli bacteria.
- The bacteriophage reproduces exponentially, so only a small amount is needed.
- Once the bacteriophage has attacked and killed all the bacteria, they spread throughout the body and are harmless.
According to scientists, including those from the China Center for Disease Control and Prevention, these G4 viruses bind to the receptor molecules of human cells and can replicate in the outer layer of the respiratory system. They showed that the newly identified virus can efficiently infect ferrets through aerosol transmission, causing serious clinical symptoms in ferrets such as sneezing, wheezing, coughing and an average maximum weight loss of between 7.3 and 9.8 percent of the body mass of mammals. The study noted that humans are not protected from the G4 virus by immunity offered by other strains of human flu vaccines, indicating that there is no pre-existing immunity against the virus. Scientists claimed that two recent cases of G4 virus infection, reported in 2016 and 2019, were 46 and nine years old respectively.
According to the study, the two patients had neighbours who raise pigs, suggesting that the G4 virus could be passed on from pigs to humans and cause serious infections and even death. The study found that humans are not protected from the G4 virus by immunity offered by other strains of human influenza vaccines, indicating that there is no pre-existing immunity against the virus. Analysis of the blood samples of workers in the pig industry indicated that almost 10.4 percent of them were positive for the G4 influenza virus. According to the study, participants aged 18 to 35 had positive blood virus rates of around 20%, indicating that the predominant G4 strain acquired increased human infectivity.
They said that the newly identified virus is a growing problem in pig farms, adding that the widespread circulation of the G4 virus in pigs inevitably increases their exposure to humans. Scientists claimed that two recent cases of G4 virus infection, reported in 2016 and 2019, were 46 and nine years old respectively. Therefore, the virus has already passed from animals to humans, but there is still no evidence that it can be transmitted from man to man, the main concern of scientists. It is worrying that human infection with the G4 virus promotes human adaptation and increases the risk of a human pandemic, the researchers wrote.
WHO will read the Chinese study carefully, spokesman Christian Lindmeier said during a briefing in Geneva on Tuesday, saying it was important to collaborate on the results and monitor animal populations. He also stresses that we cannot let go of the flu guard and we must be vigilant and continue vigilance, even in swine flu (H1N1) it is a highly contagious respiratory infection caused by a type of influenza A virus in humans. It was named as well as the people who worked close to (or in close contact with) pigs were infected with this disease, which was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization in 2009, as at the time it was spreading aggressively.