Meet G4, a virus with pandemic potential which has just been found in China

Published on:30 June 2020, 13:21pm IST
As we’re struggling to combat covid-19, news from China indicates a growing presence of the G4 virus, a strain found in pigs that can usher the way for the next pandemic.
Team Health Shots
This G4 virus needs to be monitored now. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

It looks like we are in a big soup because apparently there is a new virus that’s been doing the rounds and has the potential of causing the next pandemic.

A new flu virus strain called G4, identified among pigs in China, is now being detected amongst workers in the swine industry, according to a study published in journal PNAS. The study also says that the pathogen has “all the essential hallmarks of a candidate pandemic virus.” Now that’s horrifying.

Symptoms of the G4 virus infection are coughing and sneezing
The researchers found that the influenza virus strain, with genetic material termed as G4 genotype, has become predominant in swine populations since 2016.

According to scientists, including those from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, these G4 viruses affect the human respiratory system and start multiplying speedily.

WHO and covid-19
Another virus called G4 is on its way. Image Courtesy: Shutterstock

The researchers have also identified the symptoms of this G4 virus. According to them, severe clinical symptoms include sneezing, wheezing, coughing, and a mean maximum weight loss ranging from 7.3 to 9.8% of the body mass.

Sadly, humans aren’t immune to this new virus and therefore health agencies are asking for better monitoring. The study also noted that humans are not protected from the G4 virus by the immunity offered by other human influenza vaccine strains, indicating that there is no pre-existing population immunity to the virus.

Blood sample analysis of workers in the swine industry indicated that nearly 10.4% (35/338) of them were positive for the G4 flu virus.

Participants between 18 and 35 years of age had about 20% positive rates of the virus in their blood, according to the study, indicating that the predominant G4 strain has acquired increased human infectivity.

“Such infectivity greatly enhances the opportunity for virus adaptation in humans and raises concerns for the possible generation of pandemic viruses,” the scientists wrote in the study.

According to the study, G4 virus is deadly in nature
G4 virus is now going to become the next big concern for the people especially who rear or eat pork. Pig farms might add the widespread circulation of G4 viruses in pigs “inevitably increases their exposure to humans.”

coronavirus symptoms
Coughing and sneezing are the symptoms of G4 virus infection. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

The scientists said two recent cases of G4 virus infection, reported in 2016 and 2019, were of a 46- and a nine-year-old, respectively.

According to the study, the two patients had neighbours who reared pigs, suggesting that G4 virus “could transmit from swine to human, and lead to severe infection and even death.”

“Thus, it is necessary to strengthen the surveillance effort of G4 EA viruses among swine and human populations,” the researchers wrote in the study. 

It looks like 2020 is the year of viruses and pandemic. But we hope in the light of covid-19, health agencies have become much more vigilant and will be able to contain the G4 virus.  

(With inputs from PTI)

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