Could Fido cause the next influenza pandemic?

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According to researchers at the Global Health and Emerging Pathogens Institute at the Icahn School of Medicine in New York, our four-legged friends could play host to a variety of viruses.  And, this could possibly lead to a flu pandemic in humans.

The new study published in mBio highlighted how viruses can jump from one species to another and alter along the way.  The scientists suggest just as the swine flu pandemic, which occurred nearly ten years ago, was the result of the bird flu virus (H1N1) jumping to pigs then humans, so could the influenza virus jump from canines to humans.  Indeed, it was only five years ago that researchers identified an avian virus that had jumped and then circulated in farm dogs across a region in China.

The team found three new and different viruses in pet dogs from various parts of China that had originated from swine and avian flu viruses.  The scientists suggest 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” and that it is time to restrict the circulation of the influenza virus in dogs.

To date, there have been no known cases of people catching dog flu and it is unclear as to whether the virus would be able to spread across the human population.  Consequently, further research is required to understand how far this new canine flu virus has spread and at what rate.  So, it’s not quite the canine armageddon the press are making it out to be just yet!

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