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Virological Surveillance and Preliminary Antigenic Characterization of Influenza Viruses in Pigs in Five European Countries from 2006 to 2008


K. Van Reeth. Laboratory of Virology, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Ghent University, Salisburylaan 133, B-9820 Merelbeke, Belgium. Tel.: +32 9 264 73 69; Fax: +32 9 264 74 95; E-mail:


This study presents the results of the virological surveillance for swine influenza viruses (SIVs) in Belgium, UK, Italy, France and Spain from 2006 to 2008. Our major aims were to clarify the occurrence of the three SIV subtypes – H1N1, H3N2 and H1N2 – at regional levels, to identify novel reassortant viruses and to antigenically compare SIVs with human H1N1 and H3N2 influenza viruses. Lung tissue and/or nasal swabs from outbreaks of acute respiratory disease in pigs were investigated by virus isolation. The hemagglutinin (HA) and neuraminidase (NA) subtypes were determined using standard methods. Of the total 169 viruses, 81 were classified as ‘avian-like’ H1N1, 36 as human-like H3N2 and 47 as human-like H1N2. Only five novel reassortant viruses were identified: two H1N1 viruses had a human-like HA and three H1N2 viruses an avian-like HA. All three SIV subtypes were detected in Belgium, Italy and Spain, while only H1N1 and H1N2 viruses were found in UK and Northwestern France. Cross-hemagglutination inhibition (HI) tests with hyperimmune sera against selected older and recent human influenza viruses showed a strong antigenic relationship between human H1N1 and H3N2 viruses from the 1980s and H1N2 and H3N2 human-like SIVs, confirming their common origin. However, antisera against human viruses isolated during the last decade did not react with currently circulating H1 or H3 SIVs, suggesting that especially young people may be, to some degree, susceptible to SIV infections.