Researchers in China have discovered a new type of swine flu that is capable of triggering a pandemic, according to a study published on Monday in the US science journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Named G4, it is descended from the H1N1 strain that caused a pandemic in 2009.
It possesses “all the essential hallmarks of being highly adapted to infect humans,” said the authors, scientists at Chinese universities and the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
From 2011 to 2018, researchers took 30,000 nasal swabs from pigs in slaughterhouses in 10 Chinese provinces and in a veterinary hospital, allowing them to isolate 179 swine flu viruses. The majority were of a new kind that has been dominant among pigs since 2016.
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 a fever, coughing and sneezing.
G4 was observed to be highly infectious, replicating in human cells and causing more serious symptoms in ferrets than other viruses.
Tests also showed that any immunity humans gain from exposure to seasonal flu does not provide protection from G4.
According to blood tests which showed up antibodies created by exposure to the virus, 10.4 percent of swine workers had already been infected.
The tests showed that as many as 4.4 percent of the general population also appeared to have been exposed.
The virus has therefore already passed from animals to humans, but there is no evidence yet that it can be passed from human to human — the scientists’ main worry.
“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.
Asked about the virus yesterday, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Zhao Lijian (趙立堅) told a regular press briefing that China “has been paying close attention to its development,” and would take all needed action to prevent its spread and any outbreaks.
The study’s authors called for urgent measures to monitor people working with pigs.
Centers for Disease Control (CDC) physician Tsou Tsung-pei (鄒宗珮) told a news conference in Taipei yesterday that the study found that the virus can replicate efficiently in human airway epithelial cells and infects ferrets through aerosol transmission.
The study did not show clear evidence of animal-to-human transmission, and suspected cases of human infection were not discovered while they were suffering symptoms, Tsou said.
However, if the virus does begin to pass from human to human, existing flu vaccines and antiviral agents do not provide effective protection against it, she said.
Additional reporting by Lee I-chia
CLOSE ENCOUNTERS: Several of the PLA fighter jets that crossed the median line of the Strait came within 68km of Hsinchu, drawing warnings from Taiwan, the ministry said At least 18 Chinese military aircraft yesterday flew into the nation’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ) on the second day of a US delegation’s visit, the Ministry of National Defense said, adding that the military responded by deploying an air defense missile system to monitor their activities. A delegation led by US Undersecretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment Keith Krach on Thursday started a three-day visit to Taiwan. The ministry from Thursday started publicizing the actions of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in Taiwan’s ADIZ on its Web site and Twitter. According to ministry reports, 18 PLA aircraft
TWO CASES: The five allegedly conspired with conglomerates, threatening the nation’s governance and subverting the rules of ethical conduct, a deputy chief prosecutor said Taipei prosecutors yesterday charged three legislators and one former lawmaker with contravening the Anti-Corruption Act (貪污治罪條例) in a case linked to former Pacific Distribution Investment Co (太平洋流通) chairman Lee Heng-lung’s (李恆隆) battle with the Far Eastern Group (遠東集團) over ownership of the Pacific SOGO Department Store (太平洋崇光百貨) chain, while independent Legislator Chao Cheng-yu (趙正宇) was indicted in a separate case involving two funeral services companies and a plot of land in a national park. Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators Chen Chao-ming (陳超明) and Sufin Siluko (廖國棟), Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Su Chen-ching (蘇震清) and former New Power Party legislator
Swedish Member of Parliament Hampus Hagman is pushing for changing the name of the nation’s trade office in Taipei to signal improved relations with “Asia’s perhaps foremost democracy.” Hagman on Wednesday last week proposed renaming the Swedish Trade and Invest Council to “Sweden’s Office in Taipei,” following similar changes by other nations. The Swedish Trade and Invest Council, part of Business Sweden, is owned by the Swedish government and Swedish industry. Taiwan and Sweden share important values such as respect for democracy, human rights, the rule of law and freedom of speech, Hagman said in the motion, adding that the two nations
PENGHU INSPECTION: Taiwan cannot let its enemies strut around in its airspace, Tsai said, one day after a Chinese spokesman denied a median line exists in the Taiwan Strait Following China’s assertion on Monday that there is no “median line” in the Taiwan Strait, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) yesterday pledged to defend the nation’s airspace during a visit to an air force base in Penghu, saying that Taiwan cannot allow others to flex their military muscle in its territorial airspace. Tsai praised the “heroic performance” of the pilots of the Indigenous Defense Fighters who have been intercepting Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force planes in recent days. “I have a lot of confidence in you. As soldiers of the Republic of China [ROC], how could we let enemies strut