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J Infect Dis. 2005 Jul 15;192(2):249-57. Epub 2005 Jun 8.

Influenza virus neuraminidase contributes to secondary bacterial pneumonia.

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Department of Infectious Diseases, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Memphis, Tennessee 38105-2794, USA.


Secondary bacterial pneumonia is a common cause of death during influenza epidemics. We hypothesized that virus-specific factors could contribute to differences in annual excess mortality. Recombinant influenza viruses with neuraminidases from representative strains from the past 50 years were created and characterized. The specific level of their neuraminidase activity correlated with their ability to support secondary bacterial pneumonia. Recombinant viruses with neuraminidases from 1957 and 1997 influenza strains had the highest level of activity, whereas a virus with the neuraminidase from a 1968 strain had the lowest level of activity. The high level of activity of the neuraminidase from the 1957 strain, compared with that of other neuraminidases, more strongly supported the adherence of Streptococcus pneumoniae and the development of secondary bacterial pneumonia in a mouse model. These data lend support to our hypothesis that the influenza virus neuraminidase contributes to secondary bacterial pneumonia and subsequent excess mortality.

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