The swine-origin A(H1N1) influenza virus that has emerged in humans in early 2009 has raised concerns about pandemic developments. In a ferret pathogenesis and transmission model, the 2009 A(H1N1) influenza virus was found to be more pathogenic than a seasonal A(H1N1) virus, with more extensive virus replication occurring in the respiratory tract. Replication of seasonal A(H1N1) virus was confined to the nasal cavity of ferrets, but the 2009 A(H1N1) influenza virus also replicated in the trachea, bronchi, and bronchioles. Virus shedding was more abundant from the upper respiratory tract for 2009 A(H1N1) influenza virus as compared with seasonal virus, and transmission via aerosol or respiratory droplets was equally efficient. These data suggest that the 2009 A(H1N1) influenza virus has the ability to persist in the human population, potentially with more severe clinical consequences.

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Munster, V.J, de Wit, E, van den Brand, J.M.A, Herfst, S, Schrauwen, E.J.A, Bestebroer, T.M, … Fouchier, R.A.M. (2009). Pathogenesis and transmission of swine-origin 2009 A(H1N1) influenza virus in ferrets. Science, 325(5939), 481–483. doi:10.1126/science.1177127