The researchers from Icahn School of Medicine in New York sequenced the genomes of 16 influenza viruses obtained from pet dogs in southern China and found they contained segments similar to the H1N1 strain responsible for the 2009 swine flu outbreak. They also found that flu strains were becoming more diverse in canines, in a pattern “very reminiscent” of the events that led to the global swine flu outbreak a decade ago.
“Flu viruses have been observed in dogs before but now the viruses are changing and starting to interact with each other, creating the possibility they will mutate further and be passed to humans”.
Assessments would be done in future studies to ascertain if humans have existing immunity against canine H1N1 or not, the researchers added.
“If there is a lot of immunity against these viruses, they will represent less of a risk, but we now have one more host in which influenza virus is starting to have diverse genotypic and phenotypic characteristics, creating diversity in a host which is in very close contact to humans,” said Dr. Garcia-Sastre, a member of the research team.
“The diversity in dogs has increased so much now that the type of combinations of viruses that can be created in dogs represent potential risk for a virus to jump to a dog into a human,” he said.
The researchers added that dogs used as pets should be taken to vet for check –ups regularly.
COULD THIS BE THE MYSTERIOUS DISEASE “X”?