CDC chief confirms U.S. origin of flu strain
H/t to Fair Food Fight for this one. In a Q&A with ScienceInsider, the CDC’s chief virologist Ruben Donis confirms what Columbia researchers declared: the current H1N1 swine flu virus is “all swine” in origin, the human and avian components present in the current virus date to the 1998 swine flu outbreak, and that this is not a recent triple reassortment of swine/human/avian, as has been reported:
Q: How does it tie to the current outbreak?
R.D.: Where does all this talk about avian and human genes come from? I was describing a fully swine virus. For [the] last 10 years, this has been a fully swine virus.
Previous to that was the the 1998 swine flu outbreak when there WAS a triple reassortment:
Q: So where are avian and human sequences?
R.D.: We have to step back [to] 10 years ago. In 1998, actually, Chris Olsen is one of the first that saw it, and we saw the same in a virus from Nebraska and Richard Webby and Robert Webster in Memphis saw it, too. There were unprecedented outbreaks of influenza in the swine population. It was an H3.
Significantly, Donis has not absolved the Smithfield facility in Veracruz, Mexico, as a possible source:
Q: What do you think about the pig farm in Veracruz?
R.D.: I don’t know the details. They said they had a huge operation and the workers were not getting sick; that’s what the company claims. The only suspicious thing in that story is this is the largest farm in Mexico. The fact that the index case also is from the area makes it interesting.
Smithfield isn’t off the hook quite yet — so says the CDC. Notably, the CDC’s assessment of the flu bug is fully consistent with the one spelled out in the latest New Scientist, which Tom Philpott wrote about today.
[Update:] The AP agrees. It’s swine flu. Although, Michael Shaw of the CDC clearly didn’t get the memo: “We have no idea where it came from… Everybody’s calling it swine flu, but the better term is ‘swine-like.’ It’s like viruses we have seen in pigs, it’s not something we know was in pigs.” Um, Mike? Read. My. Blog. It’s really is swine flu — DNA doesn’t lie. People do, though.