G4 was observed to be highly infectious, replicating in human cells and causing more serious symptoms in ferrets than other viruses.
"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.
"It is of concern that human infection of G4 virus will further human adaptation and increase the risk of a human pandemic," the researchers wrote.
Tests also showed that any immunity humans gain from exposure to seasonal flu does not provide protection from G4.
From 2011 to 2018, researchers took 30,000 nasal swabs from pigs in slaughterhouses in 10 Chinese provinces and in a veterinary hospital, allowing them to isolate 179 swine flu viruses.
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