Researchers discover dangerous virus in dogs
A flu virus that can be transmitted by dogs has the potential to fatally infect millions of people around the world. The virus can apparently be carried by all kinds of dogs. So be careful the next time your dog sneezes.
In their current investigation, the scientists at the Icahn School of Medicine in New York were able to identify a virus that can apparently be transmitted from dogs to humans. This virus could trigger a major flu pandemic and cost millions of lives. The doctors published the results of their study in the English-language journal "mBio".
Examples of deadly pandemics
The flu can take on truly threatening forms, such as the so-called Spanish flu in 1918. At that time, this disease killed between 50 and 100 million people worldwide, the experts say. The origin of this flu is said to have been geese. In 2009 there was the swine flu pandemic, which luckily turned out to be a lot milder. This disease has been transmitted to humans via pigs. Swine flu has killed an estimated 245,000 people worldwide.
Is man's best friend a threat now?
The scientists have now found that normal domestic dogs carry flu viruses, which have the potential to spread to humans. This virus may make a person's best friend a serious threat in the future. For their investigation, the researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine in New York sequenced the genomes of a total of 16 influenza viruses that came from domestic dogs in southern China. These contained segments which were similar to the H1N1 strain responsible for the outbreak of swine flu in 2009, explain the authors of the study.
Flu viruses in dogs are changing
Flu viruses have been seen in dogs before, but now the viruses are changing and starting to interact with each other, creating the possibility that they will continue to mutate and be passed on to humans, the doctors say. This is very reminiscent of the H1N1 pandemic in pigs ten years ago, says study author Adolfo Garcia-Sastre from the Icahn School of Medicine. In 2009, experts focused on the search for viruses in birds, but there was no surveillance in pigs. Then people fell ill with the virus pigs, the expert explains further.
Domestic dogs possible carriers of the flu?
Earlier studies found only pandemic-type flu viruses in dogs that are kept in cramped conditions, such as in kennels and dog farms in China, where breeds such as golden retrievers are bred for their meat. The sick dogs that carried the new viruses were brought to veterinarians in China because of respiratory problems. The results suggest that domestic dogs should be seen as a possible breeding ground for flu, says Dr. Garcia-Sastre.
Are Humans Immune to H1N1 Dogs?
The type of mutations in viruses that can arise in dogs lead to the potential risk that a virus will be transmitted from a dog to a human. Now it has to be examined whether humans have immunity to dogs H1N1, adds the doctor. If there is a great deal of immunity to these viruses, they pose less of a risk. But dogs are another host where the influenza virus has different genotypic and phenotypic properties, and which is at the same time in very close contact with humans, the scientists explain . For example, killing tens of thousands of chickens is key to stopping bird flu outbreaks, and now imagine such a drastic measure in dogs.
Dog owners shouldn't panic
We should think about better ways to reduce the flu burden in dogs, explains Dr. Garcia-Sastre. Vaccination would be feasible, it would prevent transmission under crowded conditions, the expert continued. Dog owners shouldn't panic right now, the scientists advise. However, you should take your dog to a veterinarian if the animal has any breathing problems. (as)