June 18, 2010

Hong Kong researchers identified that A/H1N1 influenza virus has undergone genetic reassortment to give rise to a novel A/H1N1 virus on pigs, according to a study done by the University of Hong Kong which made the result public here Friday.

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The new virus has genes from the A/H1N1 influenza virus and other pig influenza viruses, told the research findings, which demonstrated that A/H1N1 flu virus may change in unpredictable ways in pigs and such viruses may have relevance to global public health.

While there is no indication that the particular reassortant virus detected by the university poses an immediate threat to humans, the study result emphasizes the need for systematic surveillance of flu viruses in pigs worldwide, the university said.

“Our findings emphasize the need for animal and public health authorities to work closely together to maintain surveillance of influenza viruses in pigs so that any unexpected changes in these viruses are rapidly detected and their significance rapidly evaluated,” said Malik Peiris, Professor of the university’s Department of Microbiology.

He also reminded the public not to panic about eating pork, saying that pigs and pork products do not pose an influenza-threat to humans provided good hygiene measures are maintained and pork is well cooked.

The research has been published in an international scientific journal — “Science”.

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