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Friday, June 18, 2010

Pandemic virus enters pigs in HK, swaps genes: study

Via Reuters :

" The H1N1 swine flu virus has been spreading quietly in pigs in Hong Kong and swapping genes with other viruses, and researchers said the findings support calls for tighter disease surveillance in pigs before new bugs can emerge and infect people.

The finding, published in Science on Friday, is important as it supports the theory that flu viruses infecting swine can swap genes with other viruses that are in pigs, including more dangerous bugs like the H5N1 or H9N2 bird flu viruses.

Malik Peiris, an influenza expert who worked on the study, said the discovery underlines the importance of disease surveillance in pigs.

"It demonstrates the pandemic virus can easily go back to pigs. Once it does so, it can reassort with other pig viruses and give rise to potentially unexpected consequences," said Peiris, a microbiology professor at the University of Hong Kong.

Peiris and colleagues, including Guan Yi at the University of Hong Kong, have found pandemic H1N1 viruses in nasal swabs taken from apparently healthy pigs at a Hong Kong abattoir during routine checks since October 2009.

"From genetic analysis, what it suggests is each of those viruses we found in pigs all came from humans," Peiris said in a telephone interview.

"It is not surprising because the pandemic virus emerged from pigs, so it is not surprising that it goes back to pigs."

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