H1N1 influenza A viruses isolated from pigs in Europe since 1981 were examined both antigenically and genetically and compared with H1N1 viruses from other sources. H1N1 viruses from pigs and birds could be divided into three groups: avian, classical swine and 'avian-like' swine viruses. Low or no reactivity of 'avian-like' swine viruses in HI tests with monoclonal antibodies raised against classical swine viruses was associated with amino acid substitutions within antigenic sites of the haemagglutinin (HA). Phylogenetic analysis of the HA gene revealed that classical swine viruses from European pigs are most similar to each other and are closely related to North American swine strains, whilst the 'avian-like' swine viruses cluster with avian viruses. 'Avian-like' viruses introduced into pigs in the UK in 1992 apparently originated directly from strains in pigs in continental Europe at that time. The HA genes of the swine viruses examined had undergone limited variation in antigenic sites and also contained fewer potential glycosylation sites compared to human H1N1 viruses. The HA exhibited antigenic drift which was more marked in 'avian-like' swine viruses than in classical swine strains. Genetic analyses of two recent 'avian-like' swine viruses indicated that all the RNA segments are related most closely to those of avian influenza A viruses.


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