Attenuation of virulence in influenza B viral infection of volunteers
Journal of Infection, 28(1):41-8
Authors: Mark A Zuckerman, Rebecca J Cox, John Sidney Oxford
A study was performed with volunteers in order to determine whether the virulence of an influenza B viral infection could be attenuated.
Of a total of 62 persons, 26 received intranasal inoculations of an unpassaged influenza B virus isolate [virus U], while 26 received the same virus isolated passaged in cell culture and then in special pathogen-free embryonated hens’ eggs [virus P]. The remaining 10 persons received uninoculated cell culture medium. Daily nasal wash samples were collected post-infection and scores for illness in the volunteers were evaluated. Viruses were isolated in cell culture and in eggs. Isolates were analysed by means of monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) raised against the influenza B viral haemagglutinin (HA) glycoprotein. One-step and nested polymerase chain reactions as well as direct nucleotide sequence analysis of part of the HA gene of the unpassaged specimens, together with the influenza B viruses isolated from those specimens, were performed. Nine of 26 volunteers who received the unpassaged virus became ill (illness scores from 13-84/100) whereas 7/26 of the volunteers who received the passaged virus had very mild illness (illness scores from 3-7/100). All the other volunteers remained well. Results of analysing the clinical specimens collected from the two groups of volunteers were compared. A difference in MAb reactivity, together with an aspartate for asparagine amino acid substitution at position 196 in a 432 base pair region of the viral HA gene, was observed. The loss of a potential glycosylation site at amino acid position 196-198 in the viral HA was associated with attenuation of virulence. This finding may have implications for the formulation of influenza vaccines.