The influenza A virus is highly variable, which, to some degree, is caused by the reassortment of viral genetic material. This process plays a major role in the generation of novel influenza virus strains that can emerge in a new host population. Due to the susceptibility of pigs to infections with avian, swine and human influenza viruses, they are considered intermediate hosts for the adaptation of the avian influenza virus to humans. In order to test the reassortment process in pigs, they were co-infected with H3N2 A/swine/Gent/172/2008 (Gent/08) and H1N1 A/duck/Italy/1447/2005 (Italy/05) and co-housed with a group of naïve piglets.
The Gent/08 strains dominated over Italy/05, but reassortment occurred. The reassortant strains of the H1N1 subtype (12.5%) with one gene (NP or M) of swine-origin were identified in the nasal discharge of the contact-exposed piglets.
These results demonstrate that despite their low efficiency, genotypically and phenotypically different influenza A viruses can undergo genetic exchange during co-infection of pigs.