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Pathogenesis and Subsequent Cross-Protection of Influenza Virus Infection in Pigs Sustained by an H1N2 Strain


M. Ferrari. Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale, della Lombardia e dell’Emilia Romagna, Via A. Bianchi, 9, 25124 Brescia, Italy. Tel.: +39 030 2290 248; Fax: +39 030 2290 392; E-mail:


The H1N1, H3N2 and, more recently, H1N2 subtypes of influenza A virus are presently co-circulating in swine herds in several countries. The objectives of this study were to investigate the pathogenesis of Sw/Italy/1521/98 (H1N2) influenza virus, isolated from respiratory tissues of pigs from herds in Northern Italy, and to evaluate its potential cross-protection against the Sw/Fin/2899/82 (H1N1) strain. In the pathogenesis test, eight pigs were intranasally infected with H1N2 virus; at pre-determined intervals, these animals were killed and necropsied, along with eight uninfected animals. In the cross-protection test, sixteen pigs were infected by intranasal (i.n.) and intratracheal (i.t.) routes with either H1N2 or H1N1 virus. Twenty days later, all pigs were challenged (by the same route), with either the homologous H1N2 or heterologous H1N1 virus strains. Control group was inoculated with culture medium alone. On post-challenge days (PCD) 1 and 3, two pigs from each infected group, along with one control pig, were killed. Clinical, virological, serological and histopathological investigations were performed in both the pathogenicity and cross-protection tests. In the pathogenicity test, mild clinical signs were observed in two pigs during 3 and 4 days, respectively. Virus was isolated from two pigs over 6 days and from lung samples of pigs killed on post-infection days 2 and 4. Seroconversion was detected in the two infected animals killed 15 days after infection. In the cross-protection study, mild clinical respiratory signs were detected in all pigs infected with either the H1N2 or H1N1 virus. The virus was isolated from nasal swabs of almost all pigs till 6 days. After the challenge infection, the pigs remained clinically healthy and virus isolation from the nasal secretions or lung samples was sporadic. Antibody titres in H1N1 or H1N2 infected groups were similar, whereas the H1N2 sub-type induced less protection against re-infection by homologous and heterologous virus than H1N1 sub-type. The controls had no signs of the disease. In the H1N2 infected pigs, a reduced number of goblet cells in nasal and tracheal mucosa and small foci of lymphomononuclear cell infiltrates in the submucosa were detected. Furthermore, the goblet cell reduction was related to the time of infection. Diffuse mild interstitial pneumonia was also recorded in pigs infected with the H1N2 virus and challenged with either H1N1or H1N2 pigs. These studies showed the moderate virulence of the H1N2 virus and a partial cross-protection against heterologous infection.