Between 1995 and 1998, we designed a series of studies in which we attempted to determine the main routes of transmission involved in the natural infection of pseudorabies virus (PRV) indigenous to free-ranging feral swine (Sus scrofa). Naturally infected feral sows transmitted the infection to uninfected feral boars, with which they had been commingled for a 6-wk period. Pseudorabies virus was isolated from boar preputial swabs, but not from nasal swabs. Three of the same PRV-infected feral sows did not transmit the infection to domestic boars during a 16 wk commingling period, despite the fact that they became pregnant. Feral boars, naturally infected with PRV, transmitted the virus to domestic gilts while penned together during 6 wk. Pseudorabies virus was isolated from vaginal swabs, but not from nasal swabs of gilts, after 2 and 3 wk of commingling. When the same infected boars were commingled with either feral or domestic boars for 13 wk, PRV transmission did not occur. None of the exposed boars developed neutralizing antibodies or yielded virus from their preputial or nasal swabs. Our results indicate that PRV indigenous to feral swine is preferentially transmitted to feral or domestic swine of the opposite sex by the venereal route. This mode of transmission differs from that seen in the natural transmission of PRV prevalent in domestic swine, where contaminated secretions, excretions and aerosols are responsible for the spread of the virus. Based on these results, we feel that as long as feral swine do not come into direct contact with domestic swine, PRV-infected feral swine probably pose only a limited risk to the success of the National Pseudorabies Eradication Program. The fact that PRV is usually transmitted from feral to domestic swine at the time of mating would indicate that the isolation of domestic herds by the use of a “double fence,” should be adequate protection against reinfection with PRV.
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