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Prevalent Eurasian avian-like H1N1 swine influenza virus with 2009 pandemic viral genes facilitating human infection

Pigs are considered as important hosts or “mixing vessels” for the generation of pandemic influenza viruses. Systematic surveillance of influenza viruses in pigs is essential for early warning and preparedness for the next potential pandemic. Here, we report on an influenza virus surveillance of pigs from 2011 to 2018 in China, and identify a recently emerged genotype 4 (G4) reassortant Eurasian avian-like (EA) H1N1 virus, which bears 2009 pandemic (pdm/09) and triple-reassortant (TR)-derived internal genes and has been predominant in swine populations since 2016. Similar to pdm/09 virus, G4 viruses bind to human-type receptors, produce much higher progeny virus in human airway epithelial cells, and show efficient infectivity and aerosol transmission in ferrets. Moreover, low antigenic cross-reactivity of human influenza vaccine strains with G4 reassortant EA H1N1 virus indicates that preexisting population immunity does not provide protection against G4 viruses. Further serological surveillance among occupational exposure population showed that 10.4% (35/338) of swine workers were positive for G4 EA H1N1 virus, especially for participants 18 y to 35 y old, who had 20.5% (9/44) seropositive rates, indicating that the predominant G4 EA H1N1 virus has acquired increased human infectivity. Such infectivity greatly enhances the opportunity for virus adaptation in humans and raises concerns for the possible generation of pandemic viruses.

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