Heterosubtypic cross-protection correlates with cross-reactive interferon-gamma-secreting lymphocytes in the ferret model of influenza.
Gooch KE., Marriott AC., Ryan KA., Yeates P., Slack GS., Brown PJ., Fothergill R., Whittaker CJ., Carroll MW.
An effective universal vaccine for influenza will likely need to induce virus-specific T-cells, which are the major mediator of heterosubtypic cross-protection between different subtypes of influenza A virus. In this study we characterise the cell-mediated immune response in ferrets during heterosubtypic protection induced by low-dose H1N1 virus infection against an H3N2 virus challenge, given 4 weeks later. Although the ferrets were not protected against the infection by H3N2 virus, the duration of virus shedding was shortened, and clinical disease was markedly reduced. No cross-reactive neutralizing antibodies were detected, but cross-reactive interferon-gamma-secreting T cells were detected in the circulation prior to H3N2 challenge. These T-cells peaked at 11 days post-H1N1 infection, and were strongly induced in blood and in lung following H3N2 infection. The rapid induction of interferon-gamma-secreting cells in ferrets previously infected with H1N1 virus, but not in naïve ferrets, suggests induction of memory T-cells. These results are in accord with the observations that pre-existing cross-reactive T-cells correlate with protection in humans and have implications for outbreak modelling and universal vaccine design.