From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : G4 Flu
Mains level : Rise in zoonotic diseases and their possible causes
In new research, scientists from China – which has the largest population of pigs in the world – have identified a “recently emerged” strain of influenza virus that is infecting Chinese pigs and that has the potential of triggering a pandemic.
Practice question for mains:
Q.What are zoonotic diseases? Why China has emerged as the epicentre of global outbreaks of zoonotic disease?
- Named G4, the swine flu strain has genes similar to those in the virus that caused the 2009 flu pandemic.
- The scientists identified the virus through surveillance of influenza viruses in pigs that they carried out from 2011 to 2018 in ten provinces of China.
- They also found that the G4 strain has the capability of binding to human-type receptors (like, the SARS-CoV-2 virus binds to ACE2 receptors in humans).
- The virus was able to copy itself in human airway epithelial cells, and it showed effective infectivity and aerosol transmission.
Swine industry is the new hotspot for zoonoses
- The scientists report that the new strain (G4) has descended from the H1N1 strain that was responsible for the 2009 flu pandemic.
- Pigs are intermediate hosts for the generation of pandemic influenza virus.
- Thus, systematic surveillance of influenza viruses in pigs is a key measure for pre-warning the emergence of the next pandemic influenza.
Back2Basics: 2009 swine flu pandemic
- The WHO declared the outbreak of type A H1N1 influenza virus a pandemic in 2009 when there were around 30,000 cases globally.
- It was caused by a strain of the swine flu called the H1N1 virus, which was transmitted from human to human.
- Influenza viruses that commonly circulate in swine are called “swine influenza viruses” or “swine flu viruses”.
- Like human influenza viruses, there are different subtypes and strains of swine influenza viruses. Essentially, swine flu is a virus that pigs can get infected by.
- The symptoms of swine flu include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headaches, chills and fatigue.