Influenza A viruses cause annual epidemics and occasionally pandemics. Antibodies directed to the conserved viral nucleoprotein (NP) may play a role in immunity against various influenza A virus subtypes. Here, we assessed the immunological significance of a human monoclonal antibody directed to NP in vitro. This antibody bound to virus-infected cells but did not display virus-neutralizing activity, complement-dependent cell cytotoxicity, or opsonization of viral antigen for improved antigen presentation to CD8+ T cells by dendritic cells.
The clinical symptoms caused by infection with influenza A virus vary widely and depend on the strain causing the infection, the dose and route of inoculation, and the presence of preexisting immunity. In most cases, seasonal influenza A viruses cause relatively mild upper respiratory tract disease, while sometimes patients develop an acute severe pneumonia. Heterosubtypic immunity induced by previous infections with influenza A viruses may dampen the development of clinical symptoms caused by infection with influenza A viruses of another subtype, as is the case during influenza pandemics. Here we show that ferrets acquire protective immunity after infection of the upper respiratory tract with a seasonal influenza A(H3N2) virus against subsequent infection with influenza A(H1N1)pdm09 virus inoculated by the intranasal route. However, protective heterosubtypic immunity was afforded locally, since the prior infection with the A(H3N2) virus did not provide protection against the development of pneumonia induced after intratracheal inoculation with the A(H1N1)pdm09 virus. Interestingly, some of these animals developed more severe disease than that observed in naïve control animals. These findings are of interest in light of the development of so-called universal influenza vaccines that aim at the induction of cross-reactive T cell responses.
Highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N1 viruses have devastated the poultry industry in many countries of the eastern hemisphere. Occasionally H5N1 viruses cross the species barrier and infect humans, sometimes with a severe clinical outcome. When this happens, there is a chance of reassortment between H5N1 and human influenza viruses. To assess the potential of H5N1 viruses to reassort with contemporary human influenza viruses (H1N1, H3N2 and pandemic H1N1), we used an in vitro selection method to generate reassortant viruses, that contained the H5 hemagglutinin gene, and that have a replication advantage in vitro. We found that the neuraminidase and matrix gene segments of human influenza viruses were preferentially selected by H5 viruses. However, these H5 reassortant viruses did not show a marked increase in replication in MDCK cells and human bronchial epithelial cells. In ferrets, inoculation with a mixture of H5N1-pandemic H1N1 reassortant viruses resulted in outgrowth of reassortant H5 viruses that had incorporated the neuraminidase and matrix gene segment of pandemic 2009 H1N1. This virus was not transmitted via aerosols or respiratory droplets to naïve recipient ferrets. Altogether, these data emphasize the potential of avian H5N1 viruses to reassort with contemporary human influenza viruses. The neuraminidase and matrix gene segments of human influenza viruses showed the highest genetic compatibility with HPAI H5N1 virus.
Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) viruses of the H5N1 subtype are genetically highly variable and have diversified into multiple phylogenetic clades over the past decade. Antigenic drift is a well-studied phenomenon for seasonal human influenza viruses, but much less is known about the antigenic evolution of HPAI H5N1 viruses that circulate in poultry. In this study, we focused on HPAI H5N1 viruses that are enzootic to Indonesia. We selected representative viruses from genetically distinct lineages that are currently circulating and determined their antigenic properties by hemagglutination inhibition assays. At least six antigenic variants have circulated between 2003, when H5N1 clade 2.1 viruses were first detected in Indonesia, and 2011. During this period, multiple antigenic variants cocirculated in the same geographic regions. Mutant viruses were constructed by site-directed mutagenesis to represent each of the circulating antigenic variants, revealing that antigenic differences between clade 2.1 viruses were due to only one or very few amino acid substitutions immediately adjacent to the receptor binding site. Antigenic variants of H5N1 virus evaded recognition by both ferret and chicken antibodies. The molecular basis for antigenic change in clade 2.1 viruses closely resembled that of seasonal human influenza viruses, indicating that the hemagglutinin of influenza viruses from different hosts and subtypes may be similarly restricted to evade antibody recognition.
Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1 viruses are responsible for severe outbreaks in both commercial and backyard poultry, causing considerable economic losses and regular zoonotic transmissions to humans. Vaccination is used increasingly to reduce the burden of HPAI H5N1 virus in poultry. Influenza viruses can escape from recognition by antibodies induced upon vaccination or infection through genetic changes in the hemagglutinin protein. The evolutionary patterns and molecular basis of antigenic change in HPAI H5N1 viruses are poorly understood, hampering formulation of optimal vaccination strategies. We have shown here that HPAI H5N1 viruses in Indonesia diversified into multiple antigenic variants, that antigenic differences were due to one or a very few substitutions near the receptor binding site, and that the molecular basis for antigenic change was remarkably similar to that for seasonal human influenza viruses. These findings have consequences for future vaccination and surveillance considerations and contribute to the understanding of the antigenic evolution of influenza viruses.
Influenza virus infections yearly cause high morbidity and mortality burdens in humans, and the development of a new influenza pandemic continues to threaten mankind as a Damoclean sword. Influenza vaccines have been produced by using egg-based virus growth and passaging techniques that were developed more than 60 years ago, following the identification of influenza A virus as an etiological agent of seasonal influenza. These vaccines aimed mainly at eliciting neutralizing antibodies targeting antigenically variable regions of the hemagglutinin (HA) protein, which requires regular updates to match circulating seasonal influenza A and B virus strains. Given the relatively limited protection induced by current seasonal influenza vaccines, a more universal influenza vaccine that would protect against more—if not all—influenza viruses is among the largest unmet medical needs of the 21st century. New insights into correlates of protection from influenza and into broad B- and T-cell protective anti-influenza immune responses offer promising avenues for innovative vaccine development as well as manufacturing strategies or platforms, leading to the development of a new generation of vaccines. These aim at the rapid and massive production of influenza vaccines that provide broad protective and long-lasting immunity. Recent advances in influenza vaccine research demonstrate the feasibility of a wide range of approaches and call for the initiation of preclinical proof-of-principle studies followed by clinical trials in humans.
There is considerable interest in the development of broadly protective influenza vaccines because of the continuous emergence of antigenic drift variants of seasonal influenza viruses and the threat posed by the emergence of antigenically distinct pandemic influenza viruses. It has been recognized more than three decades ago that influenza A virus-specific cytotoxic T lymphocytes recognize epitopes located in the relatively conserved proteins like the nucleoprotein and that they cross-react with various subtypes of influenza A viruses. This implies that these CD8+ T lymphocytes may contribute to protective heterosubtypic immunity induced by antecedent influenza A virus infections. In the present paper, we review the evidence for the role of virus-specific CD8+ T lymphocytes in protective immunity against influenza virus infections and discuss vaccination strategies that aim at the induction of cross-reactive virus-specific T-cell responses.
Influenza A viruses cause yearly seasonal epidemics and occasional global pandemics in humans. In the last century, four human influenza A virus pandemics have occured. Ocasionally, influenza A viruses that circulate in other species, cross the species barrier and infect humans. Virus re-assortment (i.e. mixing of gene segments of multiple viruses) and the accumulation of mutations contribute to the emergence of new influenza A virus variants. Fortunately, most of these variants do not have the ability to spread among humans and subsequently cause a pandemic. In this review we focus on the threat of animal influenza A viruses which have shown the ability to infect humans. In addition, genetic factors which could alter the virulence of influenza A viruses are discussed. Identification and characterization of these factors may provide insights into genetic traits which change virulence and help us to understand which genetic determinants are of importance for the pandemic potential of animal influenza A viruses.
Influenza A viruses; virulence factors; pandemic threat; transmission
Each year, influenza viruses cause epidemics by evading pre-existing humoral immunity through mutations in the major glycoproteins: the haemagglutinin (HA) and the neuraminidase (NA). In 2004, the antigenic evolution of HA of human influenza A (H3N2) viruses was mapped (Smith et al., Science
305, 371–376, 2004) from its introduction in humans in 1968 until 2003. The current study focused on the genetic evolution of NA and compared it with HA using the dataset of Smith and colleagues, updated to the epidemic of the 2009/2010 season. Phylogenetic trees and genetic maps were constructed to visualize the genetic evolution of NA and HA. The results revealed multiple reassortment events over the years. Overall rates of evolutionary change were lower for NA than for HA1 at the nucleotide level. Selection pressures were estimated, revealing an abundance of negatively selected sites and sparse positively selected sites. The differences found between the evolution of NA and HA1 warrant further analysis of the evolution of NA at the phenotypic level, as has been done previously for HA.
To assess the attack and incidence rates for influenza virus infections, during October 2006–October 2007 we prospectively studied 1,190 adult short-term travelers from the Netherlands to tropical and subtropical countries. Participants donated blood samples before and after travel and kept a travel diary. The samples were serologically tested for the epidemic strains during the study period. The attack rate for all infections was 7% (86 travelers) and for influenza-like illness (ILI), 0.8%. The incidence rate for all infections was 8.9 per 100 person-months and for ILI, 0.9%. Risk factors for infection were birth in a non-Western country, age 55–64 years, and ILI. In 15 travelers with fever or ILI, influenza virus infection was serologically confirmed; 7 of these travelers were considered contagious or incubating the infection while traveling home. Given the large number of travelers to (sub)tropical countries, travel-related infection most likely contributes to importation and further influenza spread worldwide.
Influenza; travel; prospective study; attack rate; incidence; viruses; epidemiology
Detrimental inflammation of the lungs is a hallmark of severe influenza virus infections. Endothelial cells are the source of cytokine amplification, although mechanisms underlying this process are unknown. Here, using combined pharmacological and gene-deletion approaches, we show that plasminogen controls lung inflammation and pathogenesis of infections with influenza A/PR/8/34, highly pathogenic H5N1 and 2009 pandemic H1N1 viruses. Reduction of virus replication was not responsible for the observed effect. However, pharmacological depletion of fibrinogen, the main target of plasminogen reversed disease resistance of plasminogen-deficient mice or mice treated with an inhibitor of plasminogen-mediated fibrinolysis. Therefore, plasminogen contributes to the deleterious inflammation of the lungs and local fibrin clot formation may be implicated in host defense against influenza virus infections. Our studies suggest that the hemostatic system might be explored for novel treatments against influenza.
Influenza viruses, including H5N1 bird influenza viruses continue to form a major threat for public health. Available antiviral drugs for the treatment of influenza are effective to a limited extent and the emergence of resistant viruses may further undermine their use. The symptoms associated with influenza are caused by replication of the virus in the respiratory tract and the host immune response. Here, we report that a molecule of the fibrinolytic system, plasminogen, contributes to inflammation caused by influenza. Inhibiting the action of plasminogen protected mice from severe influenza infections, including those caused by H5N1 and H1N1 pandemic 2009 viruses and may be a promising novel strategy to treat influenza.
influenza B virus; seals; serology; viruses; influenza; Suggested citation for this article: Bodewes R; Morick D; de Mutsert G; Osinga N; Bestebroer T; van der Vliet S; et al. Recurring influenza B virus infections in seals [letter]. Emerg Infect Dis [Internet]. 2013 Mar [date cited]. http://dx.doi.org/10.3201/eid1903.120965
Dendritic cells express lectins receptors, like DC-SIGN, which allow these cells to sense glycans that are present on various bacterial and viral pathogens. Interaction of DC-SIGN with carbohydrate moieties induces maturation of dendritic cells and promotes endocytosis of pathogens which is an important property of these professional antigen presenting cells. Uptake of pathogens by dendritic cells may lead to cross-presentation of antigens or infection of these cells, which ultimately results in activation of virus-specific T cells in draining lymph nodes. Little is known about the interaction of DC-SIGN with influenza A viruses. Here we show that a virus with a non-functional receptor binding site in its hemagglutinin, can replicate in cells expressing DC-SIGN. Also in the absence of sialic acids, which is the receptor for influenza A viruses, these viruses replicate in DC-SIGN expressing cells including human dendritic cells. Furthermore, the efficiency of DC-SIGN mediated infection is dependent on the extent of glycosylation of the viral hemagglutinin.
The influence of prior seasonal influenza vaccination on the antibody response produced by natural infection or vaccination is not well understood.
We compared the profiles of antibody responses of 32 naturally infected subjects and 98 subjects vaccinated with a 2009 influenza A(H1N1) monovalent MF59-adjuvanted vaccine (Focetria®, Novartis), with and without a history of seasonal influenza vaccination. Antibodies were measured by hemagglutination inhibition (HI) assay for influenza A(H1N1)pdm09 and by protein microarray (PA) using the HA1 subunit for seven recent and historic H1, H2 and H3 influenza viruses, and three avian influenza viruses. Serum samples for the infection group were taken at the moment of collection of the diagnostic sample, 10 days and 30 days after onset of influenza symptoms. For the vaccination group, samples were drawn at baseline, 3 weeks after the first vaccination and 5 weeks after the second vaccination.
We showed that subjects with a history of seasonal vaccination generally exhibited higher baseline titers for the various HA1 antigens than subjects without a seasonal vaccination history. Infection and pandemic influenza vaccination responses in persons with a history of seasonal vaccination were skewed towards historic antigens.
Seasonal vaccination is of significant influence on the antibody response to subsequent infection and vaccination, and further research is needed to understand the effect of annual vaccination on protective immunity.
Influenza causes substantial morbidity and mortality, and highly pathogenic and drug-resistant strains are likely to emerge in the future. Protease-activated receptor 1 (PAR1) is a thrombin-activated receptor that contributes to inflammatory responses at mucosal surfaces. The role of PAR1 in pathogenesis of virus infections is unknown. Here, we demonstrate that PAR1 contributed to the deleterious inflammatory response after influenza virus infection in mice. Activating PAR1 by administering the agonist TFLLR-NH2 decreased survival and increased lung inflammation after influenza infection. Importantly, both administration of a PAR1 antagonist and PAR1 deficiency protected mice from infection with influenza A viruses (IAVs). Treatment with the PAR1 agonist did not alter survival of mice deficient in plasminogen (PLG), which suggests that PLG permits and/or interacts with a PAR1 function in this model. PAR1 antagonists are in human trials for other indications. Our findings suggest that PAR1 antagonism might be explored as a treatment for influenza, including that caused by highly pathogenic H5N1 and oseltamivir-resistant H1N1 viruses.
The route by which highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1 virus spreads systemically, including the central nervous system (CNS), is largely unknown in mammals. Especially, the olfactory route, which could be a route of entry into the CNS, has not been studied in detail. Although the multibasic cleavage site (MBCS) in the hemagglutinin (HA) of HPAI H5N1 viruses is a major determinant of systemic spread in poultry, the association between the MBCS and systemic spread in mammals is less clear. Here we determined the virus distribution of HPAI H5N1 virus in ferrets in time and space—including along the olfactory route—and the role of the MBCS in systemic replication. Intranasal inoculation with wild-type H5N1 virus revealed extensive replication in the olfactory mucosa, from which it spread to the olfactory bulb and the rest of the CNS, including the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). Virus spread to the heart, liver, pancreas, and colon was also detected, indicating hematogenous spread. Ferrets inoculated intranasally with H5N1 virus lacking an MBCS demonstrated respiratory tract infection only. In conclusion, HPAI H5N1 virus can spread systemically via two different routes, olfactory and hematogenous, in ferrets. This systemic spread was dependent on the presence of the MBCS in HA.
The influenza A virus is one of the leading causes of respiratory tract infections in humans. Upon infection with an influenza A virus, both innate and adaptive immune responses are induced. Here we discuss various strategies used by influenza A viruses to evade innate immune responses and recognition by components of the humoral and cellular immune response, which consequently may result in reduced clearing of the virus and virus-infected cells. Finally, we discuss how the current knowledge about immune evasion can be used to improve influenza A vaccination strategies.
influenza; evasion; innate immunity; adaptive immunity
Avian influenza virus (AIV) surveillance studies in wild birds are usually conducted in rural areas and nature reserves. Less is known of avian influenza virus prevalence in wild birds located in densely populated urban areas, while these birds are more likely to be in close contact with humans. Influenza virus prevalence was investigated in 6059 wild birds sampled in cities in the Netherlands between 2006 and 2009, and compared with parallel AIV surveillance data from low urbanized areas in the Netherlands. Viral prevalence varied with the level of urbanization, with highest prevalence in low urbanized areas. Within cities virus was detected in 0.5% of birds, while seroprevalence exceeded 50%. Ring recoveries of urban wild birds sampled for virus detection demonstrated that most birds were sighted within the same city, while few were sighted in other cities or migrated up to 2659 km away from the sample location in the Netherlands. Here we show that urban birds were infected with AIVs and that urban birds were not separated completely from populations of long-distance migrants. The latter suggests that wild birds in cities may play a role in the introduction of AIVs into cities. Thus, urban bird populations should not be excluded as a human-animal interface for influenza viruses.
A multibasic cleavage site (MBCS) in the haemagglutinin (HA) protein of influenza A virus is a key determinant of pathogenicity in chickens, and distinguishes highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) viruses from low pathogenic avian influenza viruses (LPAI). An MBCS has only been detected in viruses of the H5 and H7 subtypes. Here we investigated the phenotype of a human H3N2 virus with an MBCS in HA. Insertion of an MBCS in the H3N2 virus resulted in cleavage of HA and efficient replication in Madin–Darby canine kidney cells in the absence of exogenous trypsin in vitro, similar to HPAI H5N1 virus. However, studies in ferrets demonstrated that insertion of the MBCS into HA did not result in increased virus shedding, cellular host range, systemic replication or pathogenicity, as compared with wild-type virus. This study indicates that acquisition of an MBCS alone is insufficient to increase pathogenicity of a prototypical seasonal human H3N2 virus.
Infection with seasonal influenza A viruses induces immunity to potentially pandemic influenza A viruses of other subtypes (heterosubtypic immunity). We recently demonstrated that vaccination against seasonal influenza prevented the induction of heterosubtypic immunity against influenza A/H5N1 virus induced by infection with seasonal influenza in animal models, which correlated with the absence of virus-specific CD8+ T cell responses. Annual vaccination of all healthy children against influenza has been recommended, but the impact of vaccination on the development of the virus-specific CD8+ T cell immunity in children is currently unknown. Here we compared the virus-specific CD8+ T cell immunity in children vaccinated annually with that in unvaccinated children. In the present study, we compared influenza A virus-specific cellular and humoral responses of unvaccinated healthy control children with those of children with cystic fibrosis (CF) who were vaccinated annually. Similar virus-specific CD4+ T cell and antibody responses were observed, while an age-dependent increase of the virus-specific CD8+ T cell response that was absent in vaccinated CF children was observed in unvaccinated healthy control children. Our results indicate that annual influenza vaccination is effective against seasonal influenza but hampers the development of virus-specific CD8+ T cell responses. The consequences of these findings are discussed in the light of the development of protective immunity to seasonal and future pandemic influenza viruses.
The emergence of influenza viruses resistant to existing classes of antiviral drugs raises concern and there is a need for novel antiviral agents that could be used therapeutically or prophylacticaly. Surfactant protein D (SP-D) belongs to the family of C-type lectins which are important effector molecules of the innate immune system with activity against bacteria and viruses, including influenza viruses. In the present study we evaluated the potential of recombinant porcine SP-D as an antiviral agent against influenza A viruses (IAVs) in vitro. To determine the range of antiviral activity, thirty IAVs of the subtypes H1N1, H3N2 and H5N1 that originated from birds, pigs and humans were selected and tested for their sensitivity to recombinant SP-D. Using these viruses it was shown by hemagglutination inhibition assay, that recombinant porcine SP-D was more potent than recombinant human SP-D and that especially higher order oligomeric forms of SP-D had the strongest antiviral activity. Porcine SP-D was active against a broad range of IAV strains and neutralized a variety of H1N1 and H3N2 IAVs, including 2009 pandemic H1N1 viruses. Using tissue sections of ferret and human trachea, we demonstrated that recombinant porcine SP-D prevented attachment of human seasonal H1N1 and H3N2 virus to receptors on epithelial cells of the upper respiratory tract. It was concluded that recombinant porcine SP-D holds promise as a novel antiviral agent against influenza and further development and evaluation in vivo seems warranted.
Serum antibodies induced by seasonal influenza or seasonal influenza vaccination exhibit limited or no cross-reactivity against the 2009 pandemic swine-origin influenza virus of the H1N1 subtype (pH1N1). Ferrets immunized once or twice with MF59-adjuvanted seasonal influenza vaccine exhibited significantly reduced lung virus titers but no substantial clinical protection against pH1N1-associated disease. However, priming with MF59-adjuvanted seasonal influenza vaccine significantly increased the efficacy of a pandemic MF59-adjuvanted influenza vaccine against pH1N1 challenge. Elucidating the mechanism involved in this priming principle will contribute to our understanding of vaccine- and infection-induced correlates of protection. Furthermore, a practical consequence of these findings is that during an emerging pandemic, the implementation of a priming strategy with an available adjuvanted seasonal vaccine to precede the eventual pandemic vaccination campaign may be useful and life-saving.
The clinical impact of the 2009 pandemic influenza A(H1N1) virus (pdmH1N1) has been relatively low. However, amino acid substitution D222G in the hemagglutinin of pdmH1N1 has been associated with cases of severe disease and fatalities. D222G was introduced in a prototype pdmH1N1 by reverse genetics, and the effect on virus receptor binding, replication, antigenic properties, and pathogenesis and transmission in animal models was investigated. pdmH1N1 with D222G caused ocular disease in mice without further indications of enhanced virulence in mice and ferrets. pdmH1N1 with D222G retained transmissibility via aerosols or respiratory droplets in ferrets and guinea pigs. The virus displayed changes in attachment to human respiratory tissues in vitro, in particular increased binding to macrophages and type II pneumocytes in the alveoli and to tracheal and bronchial submucosal glands. Virus attachment studies further indicated that pdmH1N1 with D222G acquired dual receptor specificity for complex α2,3- and α2,6-linked sialic acids. Molecular dynamics modeling of the hemagglutinin structure provided an explanation for the retention of α2,6 binding. Altered receptor specificity of the virus with D222G thus affected interaction with cells of the human lower respiratory tract, possibly explaining the observed association with enhanced disease in humans.
West Nile virus (WNV) continues to circulate in the USA and forms a threat to the rest of the Western hemisphere. Since methods for the treatment of WNV infections are not available, there is a need for the development of safe and effective vaccines. Here, we describe the construction of a recombinant influenza virus expressing domain III of the WNV glycoprotein E (Flu-NA-DIII) and its evaluation as a WNV vaccine candidate in a mouse model. FLU-NA-DIII-vaccinated mice were protected from severe body weight loss and mortality caused by WNV infection, whereas control mice succumbed to the infection. In addition, it was shown that one subcutaneous immunization with 105 TCID50 Flu-NA-DIII provided 100% protection against challenge. Adoptive transfer experiments demonstrated that protection was mediated by antibodies and CD4+T cells. Furthermore, mice vaccinated with FLU-NA-DIII developed protective influenza virus-specific antibody titers. It was concluded that this vector system might be an attractive platform for the development of bivalent WNV-influenza vaccines.
The emergence and subsequent swift and global spread of the swine-origin influenza virus A(H1N1) in 2009 once again emphasizes the strong need for effective vaccines that can be developed rapidly and applied safely. With this aim, we produced soluble, multimeric forms of the 2009 A(H1N1) HA (sHA3) and NA (sNA4) surface glycoproteins using a virus-free mammalian expression system and evaluated their efficacy as vaccines in ferrets. Immunization twice with 3.75-μg doses of these antigens elicited strong antibody responses, which were adjuvant dependent. Interestingly, coadministration of both antigens strongly enhanced the HA-specific but not the NA-specific responses. Distinct patterns of protection were observed upon challenge inoculation with the homologous H1N1 virus. Whereas vaccination with sHA3 dramatically reduced virus replication (e.g., by lowering pulmonary titers by about 5 log10 units), immunization with sNA4 markedly decreased the clinical effects of infection, such as body weight loss and lung pathology. Clearly, optimal protection was achieved by the combination of the two antigens. Our observations demonstrate the great vaccine potential of multimeric HA and NA ectodomains, as these can be easily, rapidly, flexibly, and safely produced in high quantities. In particular, our study underscores the underrated importance of NA in influenza vaccination, which we found to profoundly and specifically contribute to protection by HA. Its inclusion in a vaccine is likely to reduce the HA dose required and to broaden the protective immunity.