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Chinese scientists have discovered a hitherto unknown strain of swine flu that could potentially cause a new pandemic.

A new study was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, The Telegraph reported.

According to the authors, it possesses "all the essential hallmarks of being highly adapted to infect humans."

Scientists conducted active research on influenza viruses in pigs in China from 2011 to 2018 and took about 30 thousand nasal swabs from pigs in 10 provinces of the country, which allowed them to isolate 179 viruses that cause swine flu. And 'the majority were of a new kind which has been dominant among pigs since 2016.'

"Named G4, it is genetically descended from the H1N1 strain that caused a pandemic in 2009," The Telegraph added. 

According to blood tests which showed antibodies created by exposure to the virus, 10.4 % of swine workers had already been infected.

"The work comes as a salutary reminder that we are constantly at risk of new emergence of zoonotic pathogens and that farmed animals, with which humans have greater contact than with wildlife, may act as the source for important pandemic viruses," said James Wood, head of the department of veterinary medicine at Cambridge University.

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