Genetic technologies may help control swine influenza

A review by scientists from the Roslin Institute, published in Porcine Health Management, suggests that gene editing tools could offer opportunities to curb swine influenza A virus on farms.

Gene editing technologies could be used to precisely alter genes in pigs that influenza viruses use to establish infection, as has been done to tackle other viruses affecting pigs, the researchers say.

Gene editing could also be applied in vaccine production systems to reduce manufacturing costs, which would likely improve efficacy by increasing uptake.

Preventive farming practices that strengthen animal welfare are most effective when focusing on preventing virus on farms rather than clearing outbreaks, the review found.

Track-and-trace quarantining of all new animals on any farm is recommended, but this can be difficult to implement as farms increase animal density in response to rising consumer demand for pork.

Influenza vaccines, which have become more widely used with increasing pig production, reduce the overall disease burden but may not be effective when the virus mutates.

Global disease surveillance helps to identify outbreaks and prevent transport of pigs from hotspots to uninfected areas. Collaboration on these goals increased after the 2009 pandemic H1N1 outbreak, but data-sharing remains limited because of the financial burden on producers.

Corresponding author Hamish Salvesen said, “Swine flu causes significant economic burden on farmers and is a real threat to human health. If gene-editing tools are approved by regulatory bodies and society, they could bring real benefit in complementing existing measures to prevent infection on farms across the world.”

Article: Salvesen, H. A., Whitelaw, C. (2021). Current and prospective control strategies of influenza A virus in swine. Porcine Health Management, 7, 23, doi: 10.1186/s40813-021-00196-0

[SOURCE: The Roslin Institute]