Cloned defective interfering influenza virus protects ferrets from pandemic 2009 influenza A virus and allows protective immunity to be established.
Dimmock NJ., Dove BK., Scott PD., Meng B., Taylor I., Cheung L., Hallis B., Marriott AC., Carroll MW., Easton AJ.
Influenza A viruses are a major cause of morbidity and mortality in the human population, causing epidemics in the winter, and occasional worldwide pandemics. In addition there are periodic outbreaks in domestic poultry, horses, pigs, dogs, and cats. Infections of domestic birds can be fatal for the birds and their human contacts. Control in man operates through vaccines and antivirals, but both have their limitations. In the search for an alternative treatment we have focussed on defective interfering (DI) influenza A virus. Such a DI virus is superficially indistinguishable from a normal virus but has a large deletion in one of the eight RNAs that make up the viral genome. Antiviral activity resides in the deleted RNA. We have cloned one such highly active DI RNA derived from segment 1 (244 DI virus) and shown earlier that intranasal administration protects mice from lethal disease caused by a number of different influenza A viruses. A more cogent model of human influenza is the ferret. Here we found that intranasal treatment with a single dose of 2 or 0.2 µg 244 RNA delivered as A/PR/8/34 virus particles protected ferrets from disease caused by pandemic virus A/California/04/09 (A/Cal; H1N1). Specifically, 244 DI virus significantly reduced fever, weight loss, respiratory symptoms, and infectious load. 244 DI RNA, the active principle, was amplified in nasal washes following infection with A/Cal, consistent with its amelioration of clinical disease. Animals that were treated with 244 DI RNA cleared infectious and DI viruses without delay. Despite the attenuation of infection and disease by DI virus, ferrets formed high levels of A/Cal-specific serum haemagglutination-inhibiting antibodies and were solidly immune to rechallenge with A/Cal. Together with earlier data from mouse studies, we conclude that 244 DI virus is a highly effective antiviral with activity potentially against all influenza A subtypes.