London - After bird flu and swine flu, the next virus to jump from animals to humans could be dog flu.
Scientists have warned that avian flu, which crossed over from birds to dogs in the early 2000s, could combine with human swine flu to create a virus against which we have no immunity.
A dog was found to have this new type of flu some seven years ago in Korea – but research now shows it could affect humans too.
Korean researchers tested the strain – which they called CIVmv – in ferrets, whose flu receptors are similar to those in humans, and found it spread quickly.
British experts say pet dogs could give us the flu by sneezing on us, or close to us, although they say the chances of "killer dog flu" are slim. Nonetheless, the advice is for owners to stay vigilant.
Dr Daesub Song, from Korea University, who will warn of the new strain of influenza at the Microbiology Society’s annual conference next month, said: "Until now, dogs were considered neglected hosts in the field of flu research. However, after the first report of interspecies transmission, surveillance of flu viruses from companion animals should be further strengthened."
Dr Janet Daly, an animal influenza expert from the University of Nottingham, said: "The odds are stacked against a canine virus taking hold in people, but it is a possibility. We do need to keep an eye out for occasions when both a dog and their owner have flu-like symptoms.
"We also need to keep an eye out for the H3N2 CIV virus in the UK as it has already spread from Asia to America, after dogs were 'rescued' by well-meaning people." H3N2 bird flu became known as canine influenza virus or H3N2 CIV after it jumped from birds into dogs.
Dogs are also at risk from human viruses and can be infected by the H1N1 "swine flu" strain which lays many patients low each winter. Scientists have found that when both strains enter the same cell in an animal’s body, they can combine and form a new subtype.Daily Mail