Background: Influenza A Viruses (IAV) are endemic pathogens of significant concern in humans and multiple keystone livestock species. Widespread morbidity in swine herds negatively impacts animal welfare standards and economic performance whilst human IAV pandemics have emerged from pigs on multiple occasions. To combat the rising prevalence of swine IAV there must be effective control strategies available.
Main body: The most basic form of IAV control on swine farms is through good animal husbandry practices and high animal welfare standards. To control inter-herd transmission, biosecurity considerations such as quarantining of pigs and implementing robust health and safety systems for workers help to reduce the likelihood of swine IAV becoming endemic. Closely complementing the physical on-farm practices are IAV surveillance programs. Epidemiological data is critical in understanding regional distribution and variation to assist in determining an appropriate response to outbreaks and understanding the nature of historical swine IAV epidemics and zoonoses. Medical intervention in pigs is restricted to vaccination, a measure fraught with the intrinsic difficulties of mounting an immune response against a highly mutable virus. It is the best available tool for controlling IAV in swine but is far from being a perfect solution due to its unreliable efficacy and association with an enhanced respiratory disease. Because IAV generally has low mortality rates there is a reticence in the uptake of vaccination. Novel genetic technologies could be a complementary strategy for IAV control in pigs that confers broad-acting resistance. Transgenic pigs with IAV resistance are useful as models, however the complexity of these reaching the consumer market limits them to research models. More promising are gene-editing approaches to prevent viral exploitation of host proteins and modern vaccine technologies that surpass those currently available.
Conclusion: Using the suite of IAV control measures that are available for pigs effectively we can improve the economic productivity of pig farming whilst improving on-farm animal welfare standards and avoid facing the extensive social and financial costs of a pandemic. Fighting ´Flu in pigs will help mitigate the very real threat of a human pandemic emerging, increase security of the global food system and lead to healthier pigs.