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As research begins to draw conclusions are needed following the coronavirus pandemic, the authors of a study published this Monday in the journal PNAS announced that it had identified a strain of swine flu virus to say the least worrying. Baptized G4, its line descends directly from the H1N1 strain causing a pandemic in 2009 Above all, it has all the characteristics of a candidate for a future pandemic.
Since the H1N1 flu epidemic in 2009, we know that pigs are an important vector for many viruses. they also act as “mixing vessels ”, that is, they are a host where new viruses (especially influenza) can be born, mutate, and give life to new strains. When the episode of the H1N1 flu ended, researchers launched a vast campaign of sampling on Chinese pigs, to trace and study phylogeny (roughly, it is of a “family tree of species”) of the different viruses from this same lineage. The objective: to analyze thementively, in order to be able to anticipate the emergence of a strain dangerous to humans.
And this is precisely what these researchers are doing, taking up years of research on the subject in within a very large study. In total, tens of thousands of samples have been taken from pigs from ten Chinese provinces. Ant work that has isolated 179 strains of swine flu, much of which is still unknown to the battalion. They then carried out a whole battery of tests on a large number of these strains on ferrets. It is an animal widely used in the context of influenza research because they present symptoms quite similar to those found in humans.
The candidate's complete arsenal to the pandemic
This is where the researchers found that the G4 viruses are not only more infectious and have a higher replication rate, but that they generate equalmore severe symptoms than the 2009 strain. A discovery that led to screening tests on humans. Without being alarmist, the results are still quite worrying and should not be taken lightly since more than 10% of workers in contact with these pigs would have been infected: it has therefore already passed to humans . Likewise, 4.4% of the general population in these areas is said to have antibodies to the virus.
There is no evidence that the strains detected today are transmissible from humans to human. But this virus mutates quickly, so scientists fear the appearance of a strain capable of colonizing us in this way. As soon as the virus has already jumped the species barrier, the risk of adaptation to humans increases with each successive generation ... and with it, the risk of a pandemic.
The research team's conclusion is as follows:There is an urgent need to institute massive surveillance of the pig industry in China, to prevent these influenza from getting out of control and causing future pandemics. More generally, this process should even be replicated in all farms, which by definition constitute a true Eldorado for any micro-organism with a short life cycle and high replication rate. No catastrophism, therefore, but it will be necessary to remain cautious with regard to these disturbing strains. Sun Honglei, the first author of the study, even explains that it would be wise to get ahead of the development of a vaccine .