A new strain of swine flu that has the potential to spread from animals to humans and lead to another pandemic has been identified by scientists in China.

The virus – named G4 EA H1N1 – is carried by pigs, but it can infect humans, the researchers from Chinese universities and China’s Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) discovered.

It possesses “all the essential hallmarks of a candidate pandemic virus”, they concluded and emerged in pigs in 2016.

The scientists identified the new virus by analyzing 30,000 nasal swabs from pigs in slaughterhouses across 10 Chinese provinces in a nine-year period between 2011 and 2018.

One in 10 pig farm workers who were tested showed elevated levels of the virus in their blood, particularly younger workers aged between 18 to 35.

The study was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.