Officially known as swine influenza (SI), swine flu is a common disease that negatively affects commercial pig farming around the world. Timely and complete monitoring networks are necessary to limit future outbreaks, and the tools and methods for this should be standardised. A project called 'European surveillance network for influenza in pigs 3' (ESNIP 3) was funded by the EU to establish such a network. It achieved this in conjunction with SI monitoring partners in China and the United States, as well as human health organisations in the EU. The consortium primarily aimed to collect and store information about the various strains of the virus found in European pigs in a database. The project also focused on standardising collection and monitoring methods. Researchers started with Europe-wide herd surveillance to better understand the genetic diversity of SI in European pig populations. To aid in this effort, surveillance programmes, collection protocols and testing methods were standardised across all research centres involved in the project. A database was designed and implemented to store genetic information from the virus strains collected earlier in the project; it is the most comprehensive SI database ever created. This information was also used to create maps of SI genetic diversity in Europe. ESNIP 3 found that more than 30 % of pig herds in Europe were infected with SI, but there were few genetic differences between countries. However, the strains did show some divergence from the strain used to create a vaccine. Thanks to the knowledge generated during ESNIP 3, monitoring of swine flu outbreaks in Europe will become much simpler and faster. This will ease the burden on public health by speeding up vaccine production against dangerous new strains, hopefully leading to better conditions for pig farmers.
Swine flu, swine influenza, pig farming, surveillance network, vaccine