‘Will take measures to prevent any virus outbreak’: China on new influenza variant G4
The WHO will read the Chinese study carefully, spokesperson Christian Lindmeier told a Geneva briefing on Tuesday, saying it was important to collaborate on findings and keep tabs on animal populations.Updated: Jun 30, 2020 19:11 IST
China on Tuesday said it will “take all necessary measures to prevent the outbreak of any virus” following a new study that has revealed a variant of swine flu capable of triggering a pandemic.
The new influenza variant has been named G4 and is genetically linked and descended from the H1N1 strain that caused a pandemic that killed thousands in 2009.
It possesses “all the essential hallmarks of being highly adapted to infect humans,” say the authors who are scientists at Chinese universities and at the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The study was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) on Monday.
“The virus is a unique blend of three lineages: one similar to strains found in European and Asian birds, the H1N1 strain that caused the 2009 pandemic, and a North American H1N1 that has genes from avian, human, and pig influenza viruses,” the American Association for the Advances of Sciences (AAAS) said in a report on the findings.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian, when asked to comment on the study at Tuesday’s press conference said China was closely following developments.
“We will take all necessary measures to prevent the spread and outbreak of any virus,” he said.
The WHO will read the Chinese study carefully, spokesperson Christian Lindmeier told a Geneva briefing on Tuesday, saying it was important to collaborate on findings and keep tabs on animal populations.
“It also highlights we cannot let our guard down on influenza and need to be vigilant and continue surveillance even in the coronavirus pandemic,” he added.
A team led by Liu Jinhua from the China Agricultural University (CAU) analysed nearly 30,000 nasal swabs taken from pigs at slaughterhouses in 10 Chinese provinces, and another 1,000 swabs from pigs with respiratory symptoms seen at their school’s veterinary teaching hospital between 2011 and 2018.
The swabs yielded 179 swine influenza viruses, the vast majority of which were G4 or one of five other G strains from the Eurasian avian like lineage.
“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 wrote.
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.
Therefore, “It’s necessary to strengthen the surveillance” of Chinese pigs for influenza viruses, says Sun, who is also at CAU.
“It is of concern that human infection of G4 virus will further human adaptation and increase the risk of a human pandemic,” the researchers wrote.
Estimates say at least 40 percent of China’s pig population was decimated last year because of the spread of a separate viral disease, the deadly African swine fever, driving up pork prices and badly damaging business.
More than 10.3 million people have been infected and over 500,000 killed in the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which first emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year.