The lack of proofreading activity of the viral polymerase and the segmented nature of the influenza A virus (IAV) genome are responsible for the genetic diversity of IAVs and for their ability to adapt to a new host. We tried to adapt avian IAV (avIAV) to the pig by serial passages in vivo and assessed the occurrence of point mutations and their influence on viral fitness in the pig’s body.

Material and Methods

A total of 25 in vivo avIAV passages of the A/duck/Bavaria/77 strain were performed by inoculation of 50 piglets, and after predetermined numbers of passages 20 uninoculated piglets were exposed to the virus through contact with inoculated animals. Clinical signs of swine influenza were assessed daily. Nasal swabs and lung tissue were used to detect IAV RNA by real-time RT-PCR and isolates from selected passages were sequenced.


Apart from a rise in rectal temperature and a sporadic cough, no typical clinical signs were observed in infected pigs. The original strain required 20 passages to improve its replication ability noticeably. A total of 29 amino-acid substitutions were identified. Eighteen of them were detected in the first sequenced isolate, of which 16 were also in all other analysed strains. Additional mutations were detected with more passages. One substitution, threonine (T) 135 to serine (S) in neuraminidase (NA), was only detected in an IAV isolate from a contact-exposed piglet.


Passaging 25 times allowed us to obtain a partially swine-adapted IAV. The improvement in isolate replication ability was most likely related to S654 to glycine (G) substitution in the basic protein (PB) 1 as well as to aspartic acid (D) 701 to asparagine (N) and arginine (R) 477 to G in PB2, glutamic acid (E) 204 to D and G239E in haemagglutinin and T135S in NA.

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Journal Subjects:
Life Sciences, Molecular Biology, Microbiology and Virology, other, Medicine, Veterinary Medicine