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'Using computational methods, developed over the last ten years at Oxford, we were able to reconstruct the origins and timescale of this new pandemic,' said Dr Oliver Pybus of Oxford University's Department of Zoology, an author of the paper. 'Our results show that this strain has been circulating among pigs, possibly among multiple continents, for many years prior to its transmission to humans.'
Dr Pybus, along with Andrew Rambaut from the University of Edinburgh and colleagues, used evolutionary analysis to estimate the timescale of the origins and the early development of the epidemic. They believe that it was derived from several viruses circulating in swine, and that the initial transmission to humans occurred several months before recognition of the outbreak.