Transmission of Human Influenza A Virus in Pigs Selects for Adaptive Mutations on the HA Gene

Jong Suk Mo, Eugenio J. Abente, Matias Cardenas Perez, Troy C. Sutton, Brianna Cowan, Lucas M. Ferreri, Ginger Geiger, Phillip C. Gauger, Daniel R. Perez, Amy L. Vincent Baker, Daniela S. Rajao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Influenza A viruses (FLUAV) cause respiratory diseases in many host species, including humans and pigs. The spillover of FLUAV between swine and humans has been a concern for both public health and the swine industry. With the emergence of the triple reassortant internal gene (TRIG) constellation, establishment of human-origin FLUAVs in pigs has become more common, leading to increased viral diversity. However, little is known about the adaptation processes that are needed for a human-origin FLUAV to transmit and become established in pigs. We generated a reassortant FLUAV (VIC11pTRIG) containing surface gene segments from a human FLUAV strain and internal gene segments from the 2009 pandemic and TRIG FLUAV lineages and demonstrated that it can replicate and transmit in pigs. Sequencing and variant analysis identified three mutants that emerged during replication in pigs, which were mapped near the receptor binding site of the hemagglutinin (HA). The variants replicated more efficiently in differentiated swine tracheal cells compared to the virus containing the wildtype human-origin HA, and one of them was present in all contact pigs. These results show that variants are selected quickly after replication of human-origin HA in pigs, leading to improved fitness in the swine host, likely contributing to transmission. IMPORTANCE Influenza A viruses cause respiratory disease in several species, including humans and pigs. The bidirectional transmission of FLUAV between humans and pigs plays a significant role in the generation of novel viral strains, greatly impacting viral epidemiology. However, little is known about the evolutionary processes that allow human FLUAV to become established in pigs. In this study, we generated reassortant viruses containing human seasonal HA and neuraminidase (NA) on different constellations of internal genes and tested their ability to replicate and transmit in pigs. We demonstrated that a virus containing a common internal gene constellation currently found in U.S. swine was able to transmit efficiently via the respiratory route. We identified a specific amino acid substitution that was fixed in the respiratory contact pigs that was associated with improved replication in primary swine tracheal epithelial cells, suggesting it was crucial for the transmissibility of the human virus in pigs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of virology
Issue number22
StatePublished - Nov 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Insect Science
  • Virology


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