Time-series analysis for porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome in the United States

Today, we are sharing an open-access publication from Dr. Andreia Arruda, Dr. Ana Alba and members of the MSHMP team in the journal PlosOne.

This study was conducted using data collected from the Morrison Swine Health Monitoring Project. The main objective of this study was to use time-series analysis to investigate whether yearly patterns commonly described for PRRS were in fact conserved across different U.S. states.


The 268 breeding herds enrolled in this project were the ones that participated in the MSHMP from July 2009 to October 2016. PPRS status of each farm was reported weekly following the AASV guidelines. The five states examined included Minnesota (MN), Iowa (IA), North Carolina (NC), Nebraska (NE), and Illinois (IL).


81 MN farms, 72 IA, 45 NC, 30 NE, 40 from IL, were enrolled in the study with a mean number of animals per site of 2,666; 3,543; 2,342; 4,041; and 4,018 respectively.

Graphs showing the prevalence (black line) and upper and lower 95% confidence intervals (grey dotted lines) of PRRS virus positive farms for the five different U.S. states participating in this study: A: Minnesota; B: Iowa; C: Nebraska, D: North Carolina and E: Illinois

The main finding of this study was that PRRS seasonality varies according to geographical region, and the commonly referred “PRRS season” is not necessarily the only time of increase in disease incidence.

Another interesting finding from this study was the presence of an alternating trend for all examined states within of the U.S., except for the state of Iowa, the largest pork producing states in the country (approximately 31.4% of the total US hog and pig inventory), which had an increasing linear trend over the examined years.

In conclusion, PRRS seasonal patterns are not homogeneous across the U.S., with some important pork producing states having biannual PRRS peaks instead of the previously reported winter peak. Findings from this study highlight the importance of coordinating alternative control strategies in different regions considering the prevailing epidemiological patterns, and the need to reinforce strict biosecurity practices beyond the typically described “PRRS season”.

You can also listen to Dr. Arruda present some of these research findings at the 2017 Leman conference.


Industry-driven voluntary disease control programs for swine diseases emerged in North America in the early 2000’s, and, since then, those programs have been used for monitoring diseases of economic importance to swine producers. One example of such initiatives is Dr. Morrison’s Swine Health Monitoring Project, a nation-wide monitoring program for swine diseases including the porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS). PRRS has been extensively reported as a seasonal disease in the U.S., with predictable peaks that start in fall and are extended through the winter season. However, formal time series analysis stratified by geographic region has never been conducted for this important disease across the U.S. The main objective of this study was to use approximately seven years of PRRS incidence data in breeding swine herds to conduct time-series analysis in order to describe the temporal patterns of PRRS outbreaks at the farm level for five major swine-producing states across the U.S. including the states of Minnesota, Iowa, North Carolina, Nebraska and Illinois. Data was aggregated retrospectively at the week level for the number of herds containing animals actively shedding PRRS virus. Basic descriptive statistics were conducted followed by autoregressive integrated moving average (ARIMA) modelling, conducted separately for each of the above-mentioned states. Results showed that there was a difference in the nature of PRRS seasonality among states. Of note, when comparing states, the typical seasonal pattern previously described for PRRS could only be detected for farms located in the states of Minnesota, North Carolina and Nebraska. For the other two states, seasonal peaks every six months were detected within a year. In conclusion, we showed that epidemic patterns are not homogeneous across the U.S, with major peaks of disease occurring through the year. These findings highlight the importance of coordinating alternative control strategies in different regions considering the prevailing epidemiological patterns.

The emergence and evolution of influenza A (H1α) viruses in swine in Canada and the United States

Today, we are sharing a recent publication on swine influenza in the Journal of General Virology. Dr. Marie Culhane from the University of Minnesota collaborated on this study of the genetic diversity of swine viruses in Canada and how it influences the strains found in the US.

The final data set included:

  • 168 genomes from Canadian swine influenza A viruses,
  • 5 genomes from highly under-represented US states (Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Maryland and Montana),
  • 648 genomes from US and Canadian swine influenza A viruses (GenBank).

In total, these data represented 29 US states and 5 Canadian provinces.

Genetic diversity of influenza A viruses

In Canada, H1α viruses were the most frequently identified H1 viruses. In contrast, H1α viruses died out long ago in US herds, and have only been identified sporadically following new viral introductions from Canada. Notably, the two dominant H1 viruses in the United States, H1γ and H1δ-1, were not observed in any Canadian province during 2009–2016. In contrast to H1, H3 viruses are found in both the United States and Canada, with evidence of frequent cross-border transmission.

Sources of viral diversity

The study shows that the source of influenza viruses is aligned with pig movements. Indeed, Iowa and Minnesota receive around 87% of Manitoba swine exports. Therefore, the patterns of swine influenza viruses in those 2 US states correlate with the ones in Manitoba.

Similarly, viral gene patterns found in Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, or Ohio are influenced by the ones found in Ontario. Indeed, it only takes 3 hours to transport pigs from Ontario to Michigan. However, North Carolina and Virginia are the largest source of viruses for this region.


Left: Each region is shaded according to the proportion of total ‘Markov jump’ counts from that particular region into the Heartland: red, high proportion of jumps, important source of viruses; light yellow, low proportion of jumps, not an important source of viruses; black, destination. Right: US states are shaded according to the number of live swine imported from Manitoba in 2015 (per 1000 head)


Swine are a key reservoir host for influenza A viruses (IAVs), with the potential to cause global pandemics in humans. Gaps in surveillance in many of the world’s largest swine populations impede our understanding of how novel viruses emerge and expand their spatial range in pigs. Although US swine are intensively sampled, little is known about IAV diversity in Canada’s population of ~12 million pigs. By sequencing 168 viruses from multiple regions of Canada, our study reveals that IAV diversity has been underestimated in Canadian pigs for many years. Critically, a new H1 clade has emerged in Canada (H1α-3), with a two-amino acid deletion at H1 positions 146–147, that experienced rapid growth in Manitoba’s swine herds during 2014–2015. H1α-3 viruses also exhibit a higher capacity to invade US swine herds, resulting in multiple recent introductions of the virus into the US Heartland following large-scale movements of pigs in this direction. From the Heartland, H1α-3 viruses have disseminated onward to both the east and west coasts of the United States, and may become established in Appalachia. These findings demonstrate how long-distance trading of live pigs facilitates the spread of IAVs, increasing viral genetic diversity and complicating pathogen control. The proliferation of novel H1α-3 viruses also highlights the need for expanded surveillance in a Canadian swine population that has long been overlooked, and may have implications for vaccine design.