• Adaptive Mutations That Occurred during Circulation in Humans of H1N1 Influenza Virus in the 2009 Pandemic Enhance Virulence in Mice.

      Otte, A; Sauter, M; Daxer, M A; McHardy, A C; Klingel, K; Gabriel, G; Helmholtz Centre for infection research, Inhoffenstr. 7, D-38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (2015-07)
      During the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic, infection attack rates were particularly high among young individuals who suffered from pneumonia with occasional death. Moreover, previously reported determinants of mammalian adaptation and pathogenicity were not present in 2009 pandemic H1N1 influenza A viruses. Thus, it was proposed that unknown viral factors might have contributed to disease severity in humans. In this study, we performed a comparative analysis of two clinical 2009 pandemic H1N1 strains that belong to the very early and later phases of the pandemic. We identified mutations in the viral hemagglutinin (HA) and the nucleoprotein (NP) that occurred during pandemic progression and mediate increased virulence in mice. Lethal disease outcome correlated with elevated viral replication in the alveolar epithelium, increased proinflammatory cytokine and chemokine responses, pneumonia, and lymphopenia in mice. These findings show that viral mutations that have occurred during pandemic circulation among humans are associated with severe disease in mice.