Avian flu, swine flu and now dog flu? It wasn’t too long ago that these strains of the virus were making headlines and causing hundreds of thousands of fatalities across the world. Now, man’s best friend could unleash a new form of the flu.
According to a new study released this week by mBio, a journal published by the American Society for Microbiology, there could be a new pandemic of the deadly influenza virus, particularly Influenza A, transmitted by dogs and transferred to humans. Although typically caused by the virus that jumps from either a bird or pig and on to a human, they can also be transmitted to dogs before leaping to humans. As the report shows, these viruses can intermix and create new forms of the flu in the animal population that are unknown to human immune systems.
“What we have found is another set of viruses that come from swine that are originally avian in origin, and now they are jumping into dogs and have been reassorted with other viruses in dogs,” the study says.
The study, conducted by a team of scientists at New York’s Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai’s Center for Research on Influenza Pathogenesis, takes an in-depth look at the genomes of 16 influenza viruses from dogs in Southern China’s Guangxi and revealed several strains in the canines, reported Medical News Today.
The team of researchers examined dogs that were experiencing respiratory problems and confirmed that around 15 percent of the dogs had the flu virus.
“We now have H1N1, H3N2, and H3N8 in dogs. They are starting to interact with each other. This is very reminiscent of what happened in swine 10 years before the H1N1 pandemic,” a scientist reported.
With flu vaccines on the rise every season, and with proper steps to lower the risk of the avian and swine flu from spreading in the past, there are still concerns with how to contain the furry pooches from becoming the source of the next pandemic.
“There are attempts to restrict influenza virus in pigs through vaccination, and one could consider vaccination for dogs,” Dr. García-Sastre from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mt Sinai in New York said.
The canine flu isn’t generally a new virus. The first case of the dog flu was discovered 15 years ago when the virus jumped from a horse to a dog. Just five years ago, according to Medical News Today, the dog flu virus of avian origin was found in China’s farmed dog population.
“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 a diverse genotypic and phenotypic characteristics, creating diversity in a host which is in very close contact to humans,” added Dr. Adolfo García-Sastre.
There have yet to be any confirmed cases of the dog flu in humans and scientists are evaluating vaccinations and course of action; however, the researchers are advising to remain cautious as the strain of the flu could be easily transmittable to humans.