In new research, scientists from China have identified a recently emerged strain of influenza virus that is infecting Chinese pigs.
Named G4, the swine flu strain has genes similar to those in the virus that caused the 2009 flu pandemic.
The scientists identified the virus through surveillance of influenza viruses in pigs that they carried out from 2011 to 2018 in ten provinces of China.
They also found that the G4 strain has the capability of binding to human-type receptors (like, the SARS-CoV-2 virus binds to ACE2 receptors in humans), was able to copy itself in human airway epithelial cells, and it showed effective infectivity and aerosol transmission in ferrets.
Pigs are intermediate hosts for the generation of pandemic influenza virus. Thus, systematic surveillance of influenza viruses in pigs is a key measure for pre-warning the emergence of the next pandemic influenza.
The scientists suggest that controlling the prevailing G4 Eurasian-Avian like (EA) H1N1 viruses in pigs and closely monitoring human populations, especially workers in the swine industry, should be urgently implemented.
Swine flu is a virus that pigs can get infected by. While humans typically do not get infected by such a virus that circulates among pigs, when they do, it is called variant influenza virus.
The 2009 pandemic was caused by a strain of the swine flu called the H1N1 virus, which was transmitted from human to human. The symptoms of swine flu include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headaches, chills and fatigue.