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Concept: Influenza A virus


Influenza is a severe disease in humans and animals with few effective therapies available. All strains of influenza virus are prone to developing drug resistance due to the high mutation rate in the viral genome. A therapeutic agent that targets a highly conserved region of the virus could bypass resistance and also be effective against multiple strains of influenza. Influenza uses many individually weak ligand-binding interactions for a high-avidity multivalent attachment to sialic acid-bearing cells. Polymerized sialic acid analogs can form multivalent interactions with influenza, but are not ideal therapeutics due to solubility and toxicity issues. We used liposomes as a novel means for delivery of the glycan sialylneolacto-N-tetraose c (LSTc). LSTc-bearing decoy liposomes form multivalent, polymer-like interactions with influenza virus. Decoy liposomes competitively bind influenza virus in hemagglutination inhibition assays and inhibit infection of target cells in a dose-dependent manner. Inhibition is specific for influenza virus, as inhibition of Sendai virus and respiratory syncytial virus is not observed. In contrast, monovalent LSTc does not bind influenza virus or inhibit infectivity. LSTc decoy liposomes prevent the spread of influenza virus during multiple rounds of replication in vitro and extend survival of mice challenged with a lethal dose of virus. LSTc decoy liposomes co-localize with fluorescently tagged influenza virus, while control liposomes do not. Considering the conservation of the hemagglutinin binding pocket and the ability of decoy liposomes to form high avidity interactions with influenza hemagglutinin, our decoy liposomes have potential as a new therapeutic agent against emerging influenza strains.

Concepts: Microbiology, Sialic acid, Therapy, Influenza, Human respiratory syncytial virus, Orthomyxoviridae, Influenza A virus, Influenzavirus A


Current influenza vaccines provide limited protection against circulating influenza A viruses. A universal influenza vaccine will eliminate the intrinsic limitations of the seasonal flu vaccines. Here we report methodology to generate double-layered protein nanoparticles as a universal influenza vaccine. Layered nanoparticles are fabricated by desolvating tetrameric M2e into protein nanoparticle cores and coating these cores by crosslinking headless HAs. Representative headless HAs of two HA phylogenetic groups are constructed and purified. Vaccinations with the resulting protein nanoparticles in mice induces robust long-lasting immunity, fully protecting the mice against challenges by divergent influenza A viruses of the same group or both groups. The results demonstrate the importance of incorporating both structure-stabilized HA stalk domains and M2e into a universal influenza vaccine to improve its protective potency and breadth. These potent disassemblable protein nanoparticles indicate a wide application in protein drug delivery and controlled release.

Concepts: Pneumonia, Vaccine, Vaccination, Influenza, Avian influenza, Influenza pandemic, Influenza vaccine, Influenza A virus


Influenza activity in the United States was low during October 2017, but has been increasing since the beginning of November. Influenza A viruses have been most commonly identified, with influenza A(H3N2) viruses predominating. Several influenza activity indicators were higher than is typically seen for this time of year. The majority of influenza viruses characterized during this period were genetically or antigenically similar to the 2017-18 Northern Hemisphere cell-grown vaccine reference viruses. These data indicate that currently circulating viruses have not undergone significant antigenic drift; however, circulating A(H3N2) viruses are antigenically less similar to egg-grown A(H3N2) viruses used for producing the majority of influenza vaccines in the United States. It is difficult to predict which influenza viruses will predominate in the 2017-18 influenza season; however, in recent past seasons in which A(H3N2) viruses predominated, hospitalizations and deaths were more common, and the effectiveness of the vaccine was lower. Annual influenza vaccination is recommended for all persons aged ≥6 months who do not have contraindications. Multiple influenza vaccines are approved and recommended for use during the 2017-18 season, and vaccination should continue to be offered as long as influenza viruses are circulating and unexpired vaccine is available. This report summarizes U.S. influenza activity* during October 1-November 25, 2017 (surveillance weeks 40-47).†.

Concepts: Immune system, Vaccine, Vaccination, United States, Influenza, Influenza pandemic, Influenza vaccine, Influenza A virus


This report summarizes U.S. influenza activity(*) during October 2-December 17, 2016.(†) Influenza activity in the United States remained low in October and has been slowly increasing since November. Influenza A viruses were identified most frequently, with influenza A (H3N2) viruses predominating. Most influenza viruses characterized during this period were genetically or antigenically similar to the reference viruses representing vaccine components recommended for production in the 2016-17 Northern Hemisphere influenza vaccines.

Concepts: Vaccine, Vaccination, United States, Influenza, Influenza pandemic, Pacific Ocean, Influenza vaccine, Influenza A virus


Aquatic birds harbor diverse influenza A viruses and are a major viral reservoir in nature. The recent discovery of influenza viruses of a new H17N10 subtype in Central American fruit bats suggests that other New World species may similarly carry divergent influenza viruses. Using consensus degenerate RT-PCR, we identified a novel influenza A virus, designated as H18N11, in a flat-faced fruit bat (Artibeus planirostris) from Peru. Serologic studies with the recombinant H18 protein indicated that several Peruvian bat species were infected by this virus. Phylogenetic analyses demonstrate that, in some gene segments, New World bats harbor more influenza virus genetic diversity than all other mammalian and avian species combined, indicative of a long-standing host-virus association. Structural and functional analyses of the hemagglutinin and neuraminidase indicate that sialic acid is not a ligand for virus attachment nor a substrate for release, suggesting a unique mode of influenza A virus attachment and activation of membrane fusion for entry into host cells. Taken together, these findings indicate that bats constitute a potentially important and likely ancient reservoir for a diverse pool of influenza viruses.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Evolution, Microbiology, Virus, Influenza, Orthomyxoviridae, Influenza A virus


Assessing the pandemic risk posed by specific non-human influenza A viruses is an important goal in public health research. As influenza virus genome sequencing becomes cheaper, faster, and more readily available, the ability to predict pandemic potential from sequence data could transform pandemic influenza risk assessment capabilities. However, the complexities of the relationships between virus genotype and phenotype make such predictions extremely difficult. The integration of experimental work, computational tool development, and analysis of evolutionary pathways, together with refinements to influenza surveillance, has the potential to transform our ability to assess the risks posed to humans by non-human influenza viruses and lead to improved pandemic preparedness and response.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Natural selection, Genotype, Virus, Influenza, Influenza A virus


Influenza virus hemagglutinin (HA) surface glycoprotein is currently the primary target of licensed influenza vaccines. Recently, broadly reactive antibodies that target the stalk region of the HA have become a major focus of current novel vaccine development. These antibodies have been observed in humans after natural infection with influenza A virus, but the data are limited. Using samples and data from the uniquely controlled setting of an influenza A/H1N1 virus human challenge study of healthy volunteers, we performed a secondary analysis that for the first time explores the role of anti-HA stalk antibody as a human correlate of protection. An anti-HA stalk antibody enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) was performed on samples from 65 participants challenged with a 2009 H1N1pdm virus. Pre- and postchallenge anti-HA stalk titers were then correlated with multiple outcome measures to evaluate anti-HA stalk antibody titer as a correlate of protection. Anti-HA stalk antibody titers were present before challenge and rose in response to challenge in 64% of individuals. Those individuals with higher titers at baseline were less likely to develop shedding, but not less likely to develop symptoms. Similar to the hemagglutination inhibition (HAI) titer, the baseline anti-HA stalk antibody titer did not independently predict a decrease in the severity of influenza disease, while the antineuraminidase (neuraminidase inhibition [NAI]) titer did. As a correlate of protection, the naturally occurring anti-HA stalk antibody titer is predictive of a reduction of certain aspects of disease similar to HAI titer, but the NAI titer is the only identified correlate that is an independent predictor of a reduction of all assessed influenza clinical outcome measures.IMPORTANCE This is the first study to evaluate preexisting anti-HA stalk antibodies as a predictor of protection. We use a healthy volunteer influenza challenge trial for an examination of the role such antibodies play in protection. This study demonstrates that anti-HA stalk antibodies are naturally generated in response to an infection, but there is significant variability in response. Similar to antibodies that target the HA head, baseline anti-HA stalk antibody titer is a correlate of protection in terms of reduced shedding, but it is not a predictor of reduced clinical disease or an independent predictor of disease severity. These results, in the context of the limited data available in humans, suggest that vaccines that induce anti-HA stalk antibodies could play a role in future vaccine strategies, but alone, this target may be insufficient to induce a fully protective vaccine and overcome some of the issues identified with current vaccines.

Concepts: Immune system, Antibody, Vaccine, Influenza, ELISA, ELISPOT, Influenza vaccine, Influenza A virus


The novel influenza vaccine MVA-NP+M1 is designed to boost cross-reactive T-cell responses to internal antigens of the influenza A virus that are conserved across all subtypes, providing protection against both influenza disease and virus shedding against all influenza A viruses. Following a phase 1 clinical study that demonstrated vaccine safety and immunogenicity, a phase 2a vaccination and influenza challenge study has been conducted in healthy adult volunteers.

Concepts: Microbiology, Virus, Vaccine, Vaccination, Influenza, Influenza pandemic, Influenza vaccine, Influenza A virus


The avian origin A/H7N9 influenza virus causes high admission rates (>99%) and mortality (>30%), with ultimately favourable outcomes ranging from rapid recovery to prolonged hospitalization. Using a multicolour assay for monitoring adaptive and innate immunity, here we dissect the kinetic emergence of different effector mechanisms across the spectrum of H7N9 disease and recovery. We find that a diversity of response mechanisms contribute to resolution and survival. Patients discharged within 2-3 weeks have early prominent H7N9-specific CD8(+) T-cell responses, while individuals with prolonged hospital stays have late recruitment of CD8(+)/CD4(+) T cells and antibodies simultaneously (recovery by week 4), augmented even later by prominent NK cell responses (recovery >30 days). In contrast, those who succumbed have minimal influenza-specific immunity and little evidence of T-cell activation. Our study illustrates the importance of robust CD8(+) T-cell memory for protection against severe influenza disease caused by newly emerging influenza A viruses.

Concepts: Immune system, Virus, Innate immune system, Natural killer cell, Adaptive immune system, Influenza, T cell, Influenza A virus


Clinical influenza A virus isolates are frequently not sequenced directly. Instead, a majority of these isolates (~70% in 2015) are first subjected to passaging for amplification, most commonly in non-human cell culture. Here, we find that this passaging leaves distinct signals of adaptation, which can confound evolutionary analyses of the viral sequences. We find distinct patterns of adaptation to Madin-Darby (MDCK) and monkey cell culture absent from unpassaged hemagglutinin sequences. These patterns also dominate pooled datasets not separated by passaging type, and they increase in proportion to the number of passages performed. By contrast, MDCK-SIAT1 passaged sequences seem mostly (but not entirely) free of passaging adaptations. Contrary to previous studies, we find that using only internal branches of influenza virus phylogenetic trees is insufficient to correct for passaging artifacts. These artifacts can only be safely avoided by excluding passaged sequences entirely from subsequent analysis. We conclude that future influenza virus evolutionary analyses should appropriately control for potentially confounding effects of passaging adaptations.

Concepts: Genetics, Natural selection, Evolution, Influenza, Sequence, Orthomyxoviridae, Influenza A virus, Influenzavirus A