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Flu virus with ‘pandemic potential’ found in China : Report

Chinese scientists have identified a new strain of flu virus that has the potential to trigger a pandemic, according to a new study. The new flu strain, which the researchers call G4 EA H1N1, was detected even as the world is currently dealing with the novel coronavirus outbreak, which has so far killed at least 502,599 people globally. The new influenza virus is similar to the 2009 swine flu, although with some new changes.

According to the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the new strain has ‘all the essential hallmarks’ of being highly adapted to infect humans. The new flu strain, which emerged recently, is carried by pigs and needs close monitoring, although it is not an immediate problem, said the scientists at Chinese universities and China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Pigs are considered as important hosts or ‘mixing vessels’ for the generation of pandemic influenza viruses. Systematic surveillance of influenza viruses in pigs is essential for early warning and preparedness for the next potential pandemic,” the authors wrote.

The researchers found evidence of recent infections of the new virus, which can grow and multiply in the cells lining the human airways, in abattoirs and swine industry workers in China.

G4 viruses bind to human-type receptors, produce much higher progeny virus in human airway epithelial cells, and show efficient infectivity and aerosol transmission in ferrets, they said.

“Right now we are distracted with coronavirus and rightly so. But we must not lose sight of potentially dangerous new viruses,” Prof Kin-Chow Chang, who works at Nottingham University in the UK, was quoted as saying by the BBC.

“While this new virus is not an immediate problem. We should not ignore it,” he said.

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