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Open Access Research article

Interspecies interactions and potential Influenza A virus risk in small swine farms in Peru

Sarah McCune1, Carmen S Arriola2, Robert H Gilman134, Martín A Romero1, Viterbo Ayvar5, Vitaliano A Cama6, Joel M Montgomery7, Armando E Gonzales2 and Angela M Bayer148*

Author Affiliations

1 Asociación Benéfica Proyectos en Informática, Salud, Medicina y Agricultura (AB PRISMA), Lima, Peru

2 Facultad de Medicina Veterinaria, Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos, Lima, Peru

3 Department of International Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD, USA

4 Facultad de Salud Pública y Administración, Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia, Lima, Peru

5 Center for Global Health, Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia, Tumbes, Peru

6 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA, USA

7 Naval Medical Research Unit - 6, Lima, Peru

8 Division of Infectious Diseases, David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA, USA

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BMC Infectious Diseases 2012, 12:58  doi:10.1186/1471-2334-12-58

Published: 15 March 2012

Abstract

Background

The recent avian influenza epidemic in Asia and the H1N1 pandemic demonstrated that influenza A viruses pose a threat to global public health. The animal origins of the viruses confirmed the potential for interspecies transmission. Swine are hypothesized to be prime "mixing vessels" due to the dual receptivity of their trachea to human and avian strains. Additionally, avian and human influenza viruses have previously been isolated in swine. Therefore, understanding interspecies contact on smallholder swine farms and its potential role in the transmission of pathogens such as influenza virus is very important.

Methods

This qualitative study aimed to determine swine-associated interspecies contacts in two coastal areas of Peru. Direct observations were conducted at both small-scale confined and low-investment swine farms (n = 36) and in open areas where swine freely range during the day (n = 4). Interviews were also conducted with key stakeholders in swine farming.

Results

In both locations, the intermingling of swine and domestic birds was common. An unexpected contact with avian species was that swine were fed poultry mortality in 6/20 of the farms in Chancay. Human-swine contacts were common, with a higher frequency on the confined farms. Mixed farming of swine with chickens or ducks was observed in 36% of all farms. Human-avian interactions were less frequent overall. Use of adequate biosecurity and hygiene practices by farmers was suboptimal at both locations.

Conclusions

Close human-animal interaction, frequent interspecies contacts and suboptimal biosecurity and hygiene practices pose significant risks of interspecies influenza virus transmission. Farmers in small-scale swine production systems constitute a high-risk population and need to be recognized as key in preventing interspecies pathogen transfer. A two-pronged prevention approach, which offers educational activities for swine farmers about sound hygiene and biosecurity practices and guidelines and education for poultry farmers about alternative approaches for processing poultry mortality, is recommended. Virological and serological surveillance for influenza viruses will also be critical for these human and animal populations.