Breed-to-wean farm factors associated with influenza A virus infection in piglets at weaning

A scientific article written by Dr. Fabian Chamba Pardo when he was doing his PhD in the Torremorell lab was recently published on the journal of Preventive Veterinary Medicine. The study presented aimed to look at the various factors influencing the influenza infection status of piglets at weaning.

Highlights

  • Sow vaccination decreased influenza infections in piglets at weaning.
  • Influenza positive gilts at entry were associated with positive piglets at weaning.
  • More work is needed to assess herd closure, gilt isolation and gilt vaccination.

83 farms from 2 different pig production companies and located in Iowa, Minnesota and South Dakota were enrolled in this study. Samples were collected at weaning on a monthly basic for a little less than 6 years as part of routine surveillance programs. The majority of farms submitted 4 oral fluid samples per month but some collected nasal swabs or oro-pharyngeal swabs.

23% of the samples tested positive for influenza allowing the collection of 173 hemagglutinin sequences. In the H1 hemagglutinin subtype, isolates were 93.8% to 99% similar between each other and 94.3% to 97.4% similar to the vaccine strains. The largest discrepancy was found in the delta 1 clade. In the H3 hemagglutinin subtype, isolates were 95.9 to 99.7% similar among each other and 997.3% to 97.5% similar to the vaccine strains.

influenza factors for piglet positive at weaning

The influenza status of the piglets at weaning was influenced by several factors.

Seasons and vaccination status of the sows against influenza influenced piglet infection status at weaning. Indeed, sow influenza vaccination was significantly associated  with a decreased probability of piglets testing influenza positive at weaning. Both whole-herd and pre-farrow vaccination protocols were better compared to no vaccination and there were no differences between both protocols. Additionally, having influenza positive gilts at entry increased the probability of detecting positive piglets at weaning.

Among all the factors evaluated, sow influenza vaccination and gilt influenza status at entry were the only factors associated with influenza in piglets at weaning in Midwestern breed-to-wean farms.

Abstract

Breed-to-wean pig farms play an important role in spreading influenza A virus (IAV) because suckling piglets maintain, diversify and transmit IAV at weaning to other farms. Understanding the nature and extent of which farm factors drive IAV infection in piglets is a prerequisite to reduce the burden of influenza in swine. We evaluated the association between IAV infection in piglets at weaning and farm factors including farm features, herd management practices and gilt- and piglet-specific management procedures performed at the farm. Voluntarily enrolled breed-to-wean farms (n = 83) agreed to share IAV diagnostic testing and farm data from July 2011 through March 2017 including data obtained via the administration of a survey. There were 23% IAV RT-PCR positive samples of the 12,814 samples submitted for IAV testing within 2989 diagnostic submissions with 30% positive submissions. Among all the factors evaluated (n = 24), and considering the season-adjusted multivariable analysis, only sow IAV vaccination and gilt IAV status at entry significantly reduced (p-value<0.05) IAV infections in piglets at weaning. Results from this study indicate that veterinarians and producers could manage these identified factors to reduce the burden of influenza in piglets prior to wean and perhaps, reduce the spread of IAV to other farms and people.

Read the entire publication on the journal website.

 

Flu control: it’s all about the piglet

Our latest collaboration with the National Hog Farmer was written by Drs. Montse Torremorell and Marie Culhane from the University of Minnesota.

Flu never seems to go away in some herds and that is because there are groups of pigs, or subpopulations, that are able to maintain and spread the flu virus.

One of the most important subpopulations that have been identified as sources of virus on a farm is the piglets. Piglets may be infected, but may not show any signs of disease, and as a result, are silent spreaders of flu. Then, at weaning, a small, but significant, percentage of the piglets can be subclinically infected with flu, meaning they appear healthy but are shedding flu at the nursery or wean-to-finish site.

This causes a challenge for producers because even though piglets are born free of flu, they tend to be contaminated by the dam during their second week of like. The peak of flu-positive piglets occurs at weaning when piglets are moved to a nursery where they may be put in contact with naive piglets from another source and therefore become a major source of infection.

We need to understand how piglets become infected in the farrowing room in order to prevent it. Sow vaccination is a tool commonly used to protect piglets via the transmission of antibodies through the colostrum or maternal immunity. It has been shown to decrease the prevalence of flu-positive piglets at weaning but is insufficient to constantly wean negative animals.

“At the University of Minnesota, we have been measuring the impact of piglets on the spread of flu for years. We found, in a study by Allerson of 52 swine breeding herds in the United States, 23 herds (44%) tested IAV RT-PCR positive at least once during a six-month study period. Groups of piglets from those herds also tested positive for flu at weaning about 25% (75 of 305) of the time.

Along those same lines, Chamba and partnering sow farms reported that out of the 34 farms studied for more than five years, all sow farms tested positive for flu at one time or another and the level of flu infection in the groups of weaned pigs ranged from 7% to 57%. More importantly, in this study, approximately 28% (427 of 1,523) of groups of pigs tested positive at weaning. […]

Ultimately, the successful control of on-going flu infections in growing pigs will depend on the sow farm’s ability to wean a negative pig […]”

Click to read the entire article on the National Hog Farmer website.