Suckling piglets play an important role at maintaining influenza A virus (IAV) infections in breeding herds and disseminating them to other farms at weaning. However, the role they play at weaning to support and promote genetic variability of IAV is not fully understood. The objective here was to evaluate the genetic diversity of IAV in pigs at weaning in farms located in the Midwestern USA. Nasal swabs (n = 9,090) collected from piglets in breed-to-wean farms (n = 52) over a six-month period across seasons were evaluated for the presence of IAV. Nasal swabs (n = 391) from 23 IAV-positive farms were whole-genome sequenced. Multiple lineages of HA (n = 7) and NA (n = 3) were identified in 96% (22/23) and 61% (237/391) of the investigated farms and individual piglets, respectively. Co-circulation of multiple types of functional HA and NA was identified in most (83%) farms. Whole IAV genomes were completed for 126 individual piglet samples and 25 distinct and 23 mixed genotypes were identified, highlighting significant genetic variability of IAV in piglets. Co-circulation of IAV in the farms and co-infection of individual piglets at weaning was observed at multiple time points over the investigation period and appears to be common in the investigated farms. Statistically significant genetic variability was estimated within and between farms by AMOVA, and varying levels of diversity between farms were detected using the Shannon-Weiner Index. Results reported here demonstrate previously unreported levels of molecular complexity and genetic variability among IAV at the farm and piglet levels at weaning. Movement of such piglets infected at weaning may result in emergence of new strains and maintenance of endemic IAV infection in the US swine herds. Results presented here highlight the need for developing and implementing novel, effective strategies to prevent or control the introduction and transmission of IAV within and between farms in the country.
© 2020 Blackwell Verlag GmbH.