The H1N1 swine flu virus is compatible with a bird flu virus that is endemic in poultry in Asia and they can produce hybrid viruses packed with greater killing power, Chinese researchers have warned.
College of Veterinary Medicine scientists found that the H1N1 virus, responsible for the 2009 flu pandemic is compatible with a bird flu virus, which is endemic in Asian poultry. The finding led the researchers to study the outcomes of possible mixtures of the genes of the two viruses in nature by simulating the situation in the laboratory.
According to the results, mixing the genes of the two viruses in laboratory leads to the production of 127 hybrid viruses, 8 of them turned out to be more virulent than either parent viruses in mice.
These eight hybrid viruses, all of which contained a segment known as PA gene, also showed significant virulence and caused severe pneumonia, edema and hemorrhaging in the infected mice, the scientists reported.
“The possibility of novel pandemic strains being generated from reassortment between avian H9N2 and H1N1/2009 influenza viruses exists,” emphasised Jinhua Liu and his colleagues in their report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Liu believes the new findings underscore the importance of monitoring hybrid viruses that may arise from the H9N2 and H1N1.