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Vet Microbiol. 2000 May 22;74(1-2):29-46.

The epidemiology and evolution of influenza viruses in pigs.

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Veterinary Laboratories Agency-Weybridge, New Haw, Addlestone, UK.


Pigs serve as major reservoirs of H1N1 and H3N2 influenza viruses which are endemic in pig populations world-wide and are responsible for one of the most prevalent respiratory diseases in pigs. The maintenance of these viruses in pigs and the frequent exchange of viruses between pigs and other species is facilitated directly by swine husbandry practices, which provide for a continual supply of susceptible pigs and regular contact with other species, particularly humans. The pig has been a contender for the role of intermediate host for reassortment of influenza A viruses of avian and human origin since it is the only domesticated mammalian species which is reared in abundance and is susceptible to, and allows productive replication, of avian and human influenza viruses. This can lead to the generation of new strains of influenza, some of which may be transmitted to other species including humans. This concept is supported by the detection of human-avian reassortant viruses in European pigs with some evidence for subsequent transmission to the human population. Following interspecies transmission to pigs, some influenza viruses may be extremely unstable genetically, giving rise to variants which could be conducive to the species barrier being breached a second time. Eventually, a stable lineage derived from the dominant variant may become established in pigs. Genetic drift occurs particularly in the genes encoding the external glycoproteins, but does not usually result in the same antigenic variability that occurs in the prevailing strains in the human population. Adaptation of a 'newly' transmitted influenza virus to pigs can take many years. Both human H3N2 and avian H1N1 were detected in pigs many years before they acquired the ability to spread rapidly and become associated with disease epidemics in pigs.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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