Hong Kong researchers have confirmed that the H1N1 influenza virus has undergone genetic reassortment to give rise to a novel H1N1 virus in pigs, according to a study done by the University of Hong Kong released Friday.
The newly discovered virus has genes from the novel H1N1 virus and other pig influenza viruses, which Hong Kong researchers say demonstrates that the atypical virus may change in unpredictable ways in pigs, adding concern that such viruses may impact global public health.
The Hong Kong study does not suggest that the particular reassortment poses an immediate threat to humans, but the results emphasize 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,” says Malik Peiris, professor of the university’s Department of Microbiology.
The researcher also reminds the public not to panic about eating pork, explaining that pork and pork products do not pose an influenza threat to humans provided good hygiene measures are maintained and pork is well cooked.
The research was published in the international scientific journal Science.