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J Virol. 2011 Jan;85(2):686-96. doi: 10.1128/JVI.01568-10. Epub 2010 Nov 3.

The 2009 pandemic H1N1 and triple-reassortant swine H1N1 influenza viruses replicate efficiently but elicit an attenuated inflammatory response in polarized human bronchial epithelial cells.

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  • 1Immunology and Pathogenesis Branch, Influenza Division, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia 30333, USA.


The pandemic H1N1 virus of 2009 (2009 H1N1) produced a spectrum of disease ranging from mild illness to severe illness and death. Respiratory symptoms were frequently associated with virus infection, with relatively high rate of gastrointestinal symptoms reported. To better understand 2009 H1N1 virus pathogenesis in humans, we studied virus and host responses following infection of two cell types: polarized bronchial and pharyngeal epithelial cells, which exhibit many features of the human airway epithelium, and colon epithelial cells to serve as a human intestinal cell model. Selected 2009 H1N1 viruses were compared to both seasonal H1N1 and triple-reassortant swine H1N1 influenza viruses that have circulated among North American pigs since before the 2009 pandemic. All H1N1 viruses replicated productively in airway cells; however, in contrast to seasonal H1N1 virus infection, infection with the 2009 H1N1 and triple-reassortant swine H1N1 viruses resulted in an attenuated inflammatory response, a weaker interferon response, and reduced cell death. Additionally, the H1N1 viruses of swine origin replicated less efficiently at the temperature of the human proximal airways (33°C). We also observed that the 2009 H1N1 viruses replicated to significantly higher titers than seasonal H1N1 virus in polarized colon epithelial cells. These studies reveal that in comparison to seasonal influenza virus, H1N1 viruses of swine origin poorly activate multiple aspects of the human innate response, which may contribute to the virulence of these viruses. In addition, their less efficient replication at human upper airway temperatures has implications for the understanding of pandemic H1N1 virus adaptation to humans.

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