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Keywords:

  • Swine;
  • mixing vessel;
  • influenza A virus

Summary

The ecology of influenza A viruses is very complicated involving multiple host species and viral genes. Avian species have variable susceptibility to influenza A viruses with wild aquatic birds being the reservoir for this group of pathogens. Occasionally, influenza A viruses are transmitted to mammals from avian species, which can lead to the development of human pandemic strains by direct or indirect transmission to man. Because swine are also susceptible to infection with avian and human influenza viruses, genetic reassortment between these viruses and/or swine influenza viruses can occur. The potential to generate novel influenza viruses has resulted in swine being labelled ‘mixing vessels’. The mixing vessel theory is one mechanism by which unique viruses can be transmitted from an avian reservoir to man. Although swine can generate novel influenza viruses capable of infecting man, at present, it is difficult to predict which viruses, if any, will cause a human pandemic. Clearly, the ecology of influenza A viruses is dynamic and can impact human health, companion animals, as well as the health of livestock and poultry for production of valuable protein commodities. For these reasons, influenza is, and will continue to be, a serious threat to the wellbeing of mankind.