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J Infect Dis. 2012 Feb 1;205(3):474-85. doi: 10.1093/infdis/jir768. Epub 2011 Dec 9.

Local innate immune responses and influenza virus transmission and virulence in ferrets.

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Influenza Division, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Disease, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia 30333, USA.


Host innate immunity is the first line of defense against invading pathogens, including influenza viruses. Ferrets are well recognized as the best model of influenza virus pathogenesis and transmission, but little is known about the innate immune response of ferrets after infection with this virus. The goal of this study was to investigate the contribution of localized host responses to influenza virus pathogenicity and transmissibility in this model by measuring the level of messenger RNA expression of 12 cytokines and chemokines in the upper and lower respiratory tracts of ferrets infected with H5N1, H1N1, or H3N2 influenza viruses that exhibit diverse virulence and transmissibility in ferrets. We found a strong temporal correlation between inflammatory mediators and the kinetics and frequency of transmission, clinical signs associated with transmission, peak virus shedding, and virulence. Our findings point to a link between localized innate immunity and influenza virus transmission and disease progression.

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