Thursday, December 20, 2007

New swine flu virus combined with avian influenza genes

In 2006, two separate groups of pigs at different production facilities in the United States fell ill with an unkown virus. Researchers from the USDA ARS recently released their findings that the virus was a strain of swine flu that had mutated to incorporate avian influenza genes. Both groups of pigs drank from the same watersource - one frequented by waterfowl.

"In the newly isolated swine H2N3, the avian H2 and N3 gene segments mixed with gene segments from common swine influenza viruses. This exchange—and additional mutations—gave the H2N3 viruses the ability to infect swine ... [and] also mice and ferrets."

The avian influenza strain incorporated with this strain of swine flu is not the highly pathogenic H5N1 that's infected poultry, wild birds, and humans in more than 60 countries worldwide.

"These findings provide further evidence that swine have the potential to serve as a “mixing vessel” for influenza viruses carried by birds, pigs and humans. It also supports the need to continue monitoring swine—and livestock workers—for H2-subtype viruses and other influenza strains that might someday threaten swine and human health. "

Full story from USDA Agricultural Research Service:

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