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Characterisation of a wild-type influenza (A/H1N1) virus strain as an experimental challenge agent in humans

Watson, Jeannette M, Francis, James N, Mesens, Sofie, Faiman, Gabriel A, Makin, Jill, Patriarca, Peter, Treanor, John J, Georges, Bertrand, Bunce, Campbell J
Virology journal 2015 v.12 no.1 pp. 240
Influenza A virus, cyclic GMP, dose response, field experimentation, guidelines, humans, immune response, influenza, inoculum, models, mucus, nose, pathogenicity, therapeutics, vaccines, viral shedding, viruses, volunteers, young adults
BACKGROUND: Human challenge models using respiratory viruses such as influenza are increasingly utilised in the development of novel vaccines and anti-viral modalities and can provide preliminary evidence of protection before evaluation in field trials. We describe the results of a clinical study characterising an A/H1N1 influenza challenge virus in humans. METHODS: The challenge agent, influenza A/California/2009 (H1N1), was manufactured under cGMP conditions and characterised in accordance with regulatory guidelines. A dose-ascending open-label clinical study was conducted in 29 healthy young adults screened sero-negative to the challenge strain. Subjects were intranasally inoculated with three increasing doses of virus and physician-reported signs, subjected-reported symptoms, viral shedding and immunological responses were monitored. RESULTS: A dose-dependent increase in clinical signs and symptoms was observed with 75% of subjects developing laboratory-confirmed illness at the highest inoculum (3.5 × 10⁶ TCID₅₀). At the highest dose, physician or subject-reported signs of infection were classified as mild (all subjects), moderate (50%) and severe (16%) with peak symptoms recorded four days after infection. Clinical signs were correlated with nasal mucus weight (P < .001) and subject-reported symptoms (P < .001). Geometric mean peak viral shedding was log₁₀ 5.16 TCID₅₀ and occurred three days after inoculation with a median duration of five days. The safety profile was such that physiological responses to viral infection were mainly restricted to the upper airways but were not of such severity to be of clinical concern. CONCLUSIONS: A highly characterised wild-type Influenza A/California/2009 (H1N1) virus manufactured for clinical use was shown to induce a good infectivity profile in human volunteers. This clinical challenge model can be used for evaluating potential efficacy of vaccines and anti-viral therapeutics.