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J Virol. 2012 Jul;86(13):7268-79. doi: 10.1128/JVI.07242-12. Epub 2012 Apr 24.

Enhanced mammalian transmissibility of seasonal influenza A/H1N1 viruses encoding an oseltamivir-resistant neuraminidase.

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  • 1Division of Infectious Diseases, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, New York, USA.


Between 2007 and 2009, oseltamivir resistance developed among seasonal influenza A/H1N1 (sH1N1) virus isolates at an exponential rate, without a corresponding increase in oseltamivir usage. We hypothesized that the oseltamivir-resistant neuraminidase (NA), in addition to being relatively insusceptible to the antiviral effect of oseltamivir, might confer an additional fitness advantage on these viruses by enhancing their transmission efficiency among humans. Here we demonstrate that an oseltamivir-resistant clinical isolate, an A/Brisbane/59/2007(H1N1)-like virus isolated in New York State in 2008, transmits more efficiently among guinea pigs than does a highly similar, contemporaneous oseltamivir-sensitive isolate. With reverse genetics reassortants and point mutants of the two clinical isolates, we further show that expression of the oseltamivir-resistant NA in the context of viral proteins from the oseltamivir-sensitive virus (a 7:1 reassortant) is sufficient to enhance transmissibility. In the guinea pig model, the NA is the critical determinant of transmission efficiency between oseltamivir-sensitive and -resistant Brisbane/59-like sH1N1 viruses, independent of concurrent drift mutations that occurred in other gene products. Our data suggest that the oseltamivir-resistant NA (specifically, one or both of the companion mutations, H275Y and D354G) may have allowed resistant Brisbane/59-like viruses to outtransmit sensitive isolates. These data provide in vivo evidence of an evolutionary mechanism that would explain the rapidity with which oseltamivir resistance achieved fixation among sH1N1 isolates in the human reservoir.

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