Influenza C viruses infect most humans during childhood. Unlike influenza A viruses, influenza C viruses exhibit little genetic variability and evolve at a comparably slower rate. Influenza A viruses exist as multiple subtypes and cause disease in numerous mammals. In contrast, influenza C viruses are comprised of a single subtype in its primary human host. Here we characterize a novel swine influenza virus, C/swine/Oklahoma/1334/2011 (C/OK), having only modest genetic similarity to human influenza C viruses. No cross-reaction was observed between C/OK and human influenza C viruses. Antibodies that cross react with C/OK were identified in a significant number of swine but not human sera samples, suggesting that C/OK circulates in pigs. Additionally, we show that C/OK is capable of infecting and transmitting by direct contact in both pigs and ferrets. These results suggest that C/OK represents a new subtype of influenza C viruses. This is significant, as co-circulation of multiple subtypes of influenza allows for rapid viral evolution through antigenic shift, a property previously only shown for influenza A viruses. The ability of C/OK to infect ferrets along with the absence of antibodies to C/OK in humans, suggests that such viruses may become a potential threat to human health.
Ed Rybicki's insight:
As if bats weren't enough to worry about - fortunately, only Pink Floyd's pigs can fly.