Origins of the swine flu pandemic

Research blogging from Not Exactly Rocket science:

In the time since the words “swine flu” first dominated the headlines, a group of scientists from three continents have been working to understand the origins of the new virus and to chart its evolutionary course. Today, they have published their timely results just as the World Health Organisation finally moved to phase six in its six-tier system, confirming what most of us already suspected – the world is facing the first global flu pandemic of the 21st century.The team, led by Gavin Smith at the University of Hong Kong, compared over 800 viral genomes representing a broad spectrum of influenza A diversity. The viral menagerie included two samples of the current pandemic strain (the virus formerly known as swine flu and now referred to as swine-origin influenza virus (S-OIV)). Also in the mix were 15 newly sequenced swine strains from Hong Kong, 100 older swine strains, 411 from birds and 285 from humans.

The team used these genomes to build a viral family tree that shows the relationships between the strains and dates their origins. They found that S-OIV was borne of several viruses that circulate in pigs, with contributions from avian and human strains. The virus made the leap to humans several months before we twigged to its presence. It was spreading right under our noses, undetected because of our lack of surveillance of flu viruses in pigs.

Read more.


5 Responses to “Origins of the swine flu pandemic”

  1. Origins of the swine flu pandemic | swine flu pandemic Says:

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  2. bPer Says:

    Thanks, Mona. Interesting read. And now I have a new acronym to remember and confuse – S-OIV! :)


  3. Theo Bromine Says:

    OK, so it has a new name, and we are at level 6. And Ontario has stopped testing and changed their reporting because it makes the statistics look like we are worse than everywhere else. And, it’s supposed to be nothing to worry about, since it’s just like seasonal flu, and the only people who have died in Ontario have had “pre-existing conditions”. But this article ( puts a bit of a different twist on what is meant by “pre-existing condition” – for S-OIV, it would appear that the population at increased risk includes those like me: middle-aged, more or less healthy but with mild asthma (which is why I get a flu shot every year). OK, I’m ranting. Mostly because I am still have a nasty cough, asthma, and persistent headache (but at least I didn’t die) from the illness I contracted 2 weeks ago at a local elementary school , very likely S-OIV, but I can’t be sure since I can’t be tested (not that it would make much difference at this point except to satisfy my intellectual curiosity).

  4. Lisa85856 Says:

    Interesting stuff. Did you hear that there’s a new strain which is resistant to the anti-flu drugs? Tamiflu etc? Found a really good website for tracking its progress, seems to be updated every hour or so…

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