“From pigs it passes to man.” WHO monitors infections

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A new virus capable of triggering another pandemic is coming from China? This is the fear of researchers who have discovered a new swine flu that, so far, would not yet be able to transmit from person to person, but would have already made the “jump of species”, going from pigs to humans.

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For this reason, scientists who have studied the new disease – who have summarized the results of their work in an article published in the scientific journal “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences” (Pnas) – warn that all measures must be immediately prepared and applied. designed to contain the spread of the virus among pigs and workers in the meat industry. Because the fear is that even this virus – just like the new coronavirus – sooner or later will be able to mutate, spreading among humans and giving rise to a new pandemic, and being a new virus, people may have no defense against it. , just like in the case of “Covid-19”.

Professor Kin-Chow Chang and his colleagues from the University of Nottingham who studied the new pig – called “G4 EA H1N1” (or, more simply, G4) – explained that the new virus is able to grow and multiply in the cells that cover the respiratory tract of humans.

Meanwhile, G4 has already proven itself capable of moving from animals to humans. In fact, according to the authors of the article, it has “all the essential characteristics of a great adaptability, such as to infect humans”.

The new swine identified in China is different but “descends” from a genetic point of view from the H1N1 virus that caused the 2009 pandemic and which currently falls within those “covered” by the annual flu vaccine, which makes it harmless. So scientists say that the vaccines currently in circulation – in the event that this is necessary – perhaps they could be “updated” to offer protection even against G4. According to the scientists, the 2009 swine was less lethal than initially feared precisely because many older people proved immune to the virus, probably because of its “resemblance” to other viruses that had circulated in previous years.

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The discovery of the G4 is part of a vast surveillance program carried out under the auspices of the World Health Organization (WHO) and aimed at nipping the risk of new pandemics in the bud or preparing countermeasures in time. Described in the journal of the United States Academy of Sciences, the virus was identified by the group led by George Gao and Jinhua Liu, of the Agricultural Universities of Beijing and Shandong, with the participation of the Chinese Centers for Disease Control. These are groups of researchers who have been working with WHO for years. Their surveillance work also extended to humans used in farms, discovering the presence of antibodies in 10% of a sample of about 300 people. This means that G4 is able to attack humans, but has not yet taken the further step, with the ability to transmit itself from man to man.

The study published on Pnas by the group of scientists is the result of work that – between 2011 and 2018 – led them to carry out 30,000 nasal swabs in the slaughterhouses and veterinary hospitals of ten Chinese provinces, isolating 179 different swine flu viruses. Among these, the G4 – which infected slaughterhouse workers – proved to be the most infectious (even if the symptoms and clinical manifestations are not described in the research), capable of replicating in human cells. Among the various factors attributed to the triggering of new viruses is intensive meat breeding? James Wood – head of the veterinary medicine department of the University of Cambridge – said that the work of Chinese scientists “is useful because it reminds us that we are constantly at risk of a new emergence of animal pathogens and that farm animals, with which men have more contacts than they have in nature, they can act as a source of important pandemic viruses “.

Last updated: 01:22

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