I previously posted on the Nature article re: Korean Pig strain, here
If flu viruses have favoured hook-up spots, then pig pens would be high on
the list. Their airways contain molecules that both bird flu viruses
and mammalian flu viruses can latch onto. This means that a wide range
of flu strains can infect pigs, and if two viruses infect the same cell,
they can shuffle their genes to create fresh combinations.
This process is called reassortment. In 2009, it created a strain of flu that leapt from pigs to humans, triggering a global pandemic. If we needed proof that pigs are “mixing vessels” for new and dangerous viruses, the pandemic was it.
Now, scientists have found a new strain of flu in Korean pigs
that remphasises the threat. It’s an H1N2, subtly different to the H1N1
virus behind the recent pandemic. But it’s got all the makings of a
serious problem. It can kill ferrets – the animal of choice for
representing human flu infections. And it spreads through the air
between them. I’ve written about this new strain for Nature News, so head over there for more details.