Serological Profiles after Consecutive Experimental Infections of Pigs with European H1N1, H3N2, and H1N2 Swine Influenza Viruses

Swine influenza viruses (SIVs) of H1N1, H3N2, and H1N2 subtypes, with antigenically different hemagglutinins, are currently cocirculating in pigs in Europe. This study aimed to determine whether the hemagglutination inhibition (HI) test, which is the primary serological test for SIV, is sufficiently specific to discriminate between infections with the three subtypes. In experiment 1, pigs were consecutively inoculated with European H1N1, H3N2, and H1N2 SIVs by the intranasal route, or with the respective subtypes only. In a second experiment, a commercial, inactivated H1N1- and H3N2- based SIV vaccine was administered once to pigs previously infected with one to three SIV subtypes or to influenza-naive pigs. Sequential serum samples were examined in HI and virus-neutralizing (VN) tests to the three strains used for pig inoculations. Of the 160 sera collected after infection with one or two SIV subtypes, only 8 showed cross-reactive antibodies to the remaining subtype(s) in the HI test, and 11 in the VN test. Consecutive inoculations with H1N1 and H1N2 or vice versa were followed by a significant rise in preexisting antibody titers to the first subtype after the second inoculation. When dually infection-immune pigs were inoculated with the third, remaining SIV subtype, nasal virus excretion was undetectable or reduced and the serological response was absent to moderate. A single vaccination of infection-immune pigs resulted in a dramatic rise in HI and VN antibody titers to any of the previously encountered subtypes, whereas SIV-naive pigs barely seroconverted. Most important, pigs previously infected with H1N1 but not with H1N2 developed crossreactive antibodies to H1N2 after the vaccination. In conclusion, the HI test remains adequate for the differential diagnosis of infections with H1N1, H3N2, and H1N2 in European swine populations if it is properly used and if the SIV vaccination status is taken into account.