Reassortment patterns in Swine influenza viruses

PLoS One. 2009 Oct 7;4(10):e7366. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0007366.


Three human influenza pandemics occurred in the twentieth century, in 1918, 1957, and 1968. Influenza pandemic strains are the results of emerging viruses from non-human reservoirs to which humans have little or no immunity. At least two of these pandemic strains, in 1957 and in 1968, were the results of reassortments between human and avian viruses. Also, many cases of swine influenza viruses have reportedly infected humans, in particular, the recent H1N1 influenza virus of swine origin, isolated in Mexico and the United States. Pigs are documented to allow productive replication of human, avian, and swine influenza viruses. Thus it has been conjectured that pigs are the "mixing vessel" that create the avian-human reassortant strains, causing the human pandemics. Hence, studying the process and patterns of viral reassortment, especially in pigs, is a key to better understanding of human influenza pandemics. In the last few years, databases containing sequences of influenza A viruses, including swine viruses, collected since 1918 from diverse geographical locations, have been developed and made publicly available. In this paper, we study an ensemble of swine influenza viruses to analyze the reassortment phenomena through several statistical techniques. The reassortment patterns in swine viruses prove to be similar to the previous results found in human viruses, both in vitro and in vivo, that the surface glycoprotein coding segments reassort most often. Moreover, we find that one of the polymerase segments (PB1), reassorted in the strains responsible for the last two human pandemics, also reassorts frequently.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Birds
  • Codon
  • Genes, Viral
  • Genome, Viral
  • Geography
  • Humans
  • Influenza A Virus, H1N1 Subtype / genetics*
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / metabolism
  • Models, Statistical
  • Orthomyxoviridae / genetics*
  • Reassortant Viruses / genetics*
  • Species Specificity
  • Swine


  • Codon
  • Membrane Glycoproteins