Evidence of Cross-Reactive Immunity to 2009 Pandemic Influenza A Virus in Workers Seropositive to Swine H1N1 Influenza Viruses Circulating in Italy

De Marco, Maria A.; Porru, Stefano; Cordioli, Paolo; Cesana, Bruno M.; Moreno, Ana; Calzoletti, Laura; Bonfanti, Lebana; Boni, Arianna; Di Carlo, Antonio Scotto; Arici, Cecilia; Carta, Angela; Castrucci, Maria R.; Donatelli, Isabella; Tomao, Paola; Peri, Vittoria M.; Di Trani, Livia; Vonesch, Nicoletta
February 2013
PLoS ONE;Feb2013, Vol. 8 Issue 2, p1
Academic Journal
Background: Pigs play a key epidemiologic role in the ecology of influenza A viruses (IAVs) emerging from animal hosts and transmitted to humans. Between 2008 and 2010, we investigated the health risk of occupational exposure to swine influenza viruses (SIVs) in Italy, during the emergence and spread of the 2009 H1N1 pandemic (H1N1pdm) virus. Methodology/Principal Findings: Serum samples from 123 swine workers (SWs) and 379 control subjects (Cs), not exposed to pig herds, were tested by haemagglutination inhibition (HI) assay against selected SIVs belonging to H1N1 (swH1N1), H1N2 (swH1N2) and H3N2 (swH3N2) subtypes circulating in the study area. Potential cross-reactivity between swine and human IAVs was evaluated by testing sera against recent, pandemic and seasonal, human influenza viruses (H1N1 and H3N2 antigenic subtypes). Samples tested against swH1N1 and H1N1pdm viruses were categorized into sera collected before (n. 84 SWs; n. 234 Cs) and after (n. 39 SWs; n. 145 Cs) the pandemic peak. HI-antibody titers ≥10 were considered positive. In both pre-pandemic and post-pandemic peak subperiods, SWs showed significantly higher swH1N1 seroprevalences when compared with Cs (52.4% vs. 4.7% and 59% vs. 9.7%, respectively). Comparable HI results were obtained against H1N1pdm antigen (58.3% vs. 7.7% and 59% vs. 31.7%, respectively). No differences were found between HI seroreactivity detected in SWs and Cs against swH1N2 (33.3% vs. 40.4%) and swH3N2 (51.2 vs. 55.4%) viruses. These findings indicate the occurrence of swH1N1 transmission from pigs to Italian SWs. Conclusion/Significance: A significant increase of H1N1pdm seroprevalences occurred in the post-pandemic peak subperiod in the Cs (p<0.001) whereas SWs showed no differences between the two subperiods, suggesting a possible occurrence of cross-protective immunity related to previous swH1N1 infections. These data underline the importance of risk assessment and occupational health surveillance activities aimed at early detection and control of SIVs with pandemic potential in humans.


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