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China researchers discover new swine flu with ‘pandemic potential’

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Chinese researchers have discovered a new type of swine flu that can infect humans and has the potential to cause a future pandemic, according to a study released on Monday.

The disease, which researchers called the G4 virus, is genetically descended from the H1N1 swine flu that caused a global pandemic in 2009. G4 now shows “all the essential hallmarks of a candidate pandemic virus,” said the study, published in the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Researchers discovered G4 during a pig surveillance program that ran from 2011 to 2018, in which they collected more than 30,000 nasal swab samples from pigs in slaughterhouses and veterinary teaching hospitals across 10 Chinese provinces.

From these samples, researchers identified 179 swine influenza viruses — but not all of them posed a concern. Some only showed up one year out of the program’s seven, or eventually declined to nonthreatening levels.

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