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Virology. 2008 Jun 20;376(1):53-9. doi: 10.1016/j.virol.2008.02.035.

Severe seasonal influenza in ferrets correlates with reduced interferon and increased IL-6 induction.

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INRS-Institut Armand-Frappier, University of Quebec, Laval, QC, Canada.


Even though ferrets are one of the principal animal models for influenza pathogenesis, the lack of suitable immunological reagents has so far limited their use in host response studies. Using recently established real-time PCR assays for a panel of ferret cytokines, we analyzed the local ferret immune response to human influenza isolates of the H1N1 and H3N2 subtypes that varied in their virulence. We observed that the severity of clinical signs correlated with gross- and histopathological changes in the lungs and was subtype-independent. Strains causing a mild disease were associated with a strong and rapid innate response and upregulation of IL-8, while severe infections were characterized by a lesser induction of type I and II interferons and strong IL-6 upregulation. These findings suggest that more virulent strains may interfere more efficiently with the host response at early disease stages.

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