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Infectivity and transmissibility of an avian H3N1 influenza virus in pigs


Studies on the replication efficiency and transmissibility of AIV H3N1 in pigs by DELTA-FLU partner UGENT

In 2019 a low pathogenic H3N1 avian influenza virus (AIV) caused an outbreak in Belgian poultry farms, characterized by an unusually high mortality in chickens. Influenza A viruses of the H1 and H3 subtype can infect pigs and become established in swine populations. Therefore, the H3N1 epizootic raised concern about AIV transmission to pigs and from pigs to humans. Here, we assessed the replication efficiency of this virus in explants of the porcine respiratory tract and in pigs, using virus titration and/or RT-qPCR. We also examined transmission from directly, intranasally inoculated pigs to contact pigs. The H3N1 AIV replicated to moderate titers in explants of the bronchioles and lungs, but not in the nasal mucosa or trachea. In the pig infection study, infectious virus was only detected in a few lung samples collected between 1 and 3 days post-inoculation. Virus titers were between 1.7 and 4.8 log10 TCID50. In line with the ex vivo experiment, no virus was isolated from the upper respiratory tract of pigs. In the transmission experiment, we could not detect virus transmission from directly inoculated to contact pigs. An increase in serum antibody titers was observed only in the inoculated pigs. We conclude that the porcine respiratory tract tissue explants can be a useful tool to assess the replication efficiency of AIVs in pigs. The H3N1 AIV examined here is unlikely to pose a risk to swine populations. However, continuous risk assessment studies of emerging AIVs in pigs are necessary, since different virus strains will have different genotypic and phenotypic traits.