Coronavirus is in full swing, but could a new pandemic be looming?

Swine flu with ‘human pandemic potential’ found in China

"Will this one do it?" The current vaccines could be altered to fight this new strain, according to researchers.

"From the data presented, it appears that this is a swine influenza virus that is poised to emerge in humans", Edward Holmes, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Sydney who studies pathogens, told Science Magazine.

"It would make sense to continue to monitor this closely, and to make preparations for a vaccine for this strain".

Researchers discovered G4 during a pig surveillance program that ran from 2011 to 2018, in which they collected more than 30,000 nasal swab samples from pigs in slaughterhouses and veterinary teaching hospitals across 10 Chinese provinces.

Sun Honglei, the paper's first author, says G4's inclusion of genes from the 2009 H1N1 pandemic "may promote the virus adaptation" that leads to human-to-human transmission. The only good news thus far - it has yet to show that it can jump from human-to-human. Two cases of G4 infections of humans have been documented and both were dead-end infections that did not transmit to other people.

Pigs are often intermediate hosts or "mixing vessels" for viruses with pandemic potential to develop in.

The H1N1 strain, which G4 descended from, was the source of a pandemic in 2009.

"Influenza can surprise us", Nelson told Science. "We would be just as vulnerable to G4 as we are now to the COVID-19 virus". A new influenza strain is something disease experts have been expecting for a long time.

The world has remained focused on battling the novel coronavirus, which originated in China.

The researchers then carried out various experiments including on ferrets, which are widely used in flu studies because they experience similar symptoms to humans - principally fever, coughing and sneezing.

As per the blood tests, results showed antibodies created by exposure to the G4, 10.4% of the swine workers had already been infected with it.

Wang, who was not involved in the study, said that ascertaining the virus' threat level would help doctors be better prepared - for example, they might be able to start screening flu patients for this specific virus.

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