The ferret transmission model is extensively used to assess the pandemic potential of emerging influenza viruses, yet experimental conditions and reported results vary among laboratories. Such variation can be a critical consideration when contextualizing results from independent risk-assessment studies of novel and emerging influenza viruses. To streamline interpretation of data generated in different laboratories, we provide a consensus on experimental parameters that define risk-assessment experiments of influenza virus transmissibility, including disclosure of variables known or suspected to contribute to experimental variability in this model, and advocate adoption of more standardized practices. We also discuss current limitations of the ferret transmission model and highlight continued refinements and advances to this model ongoing in laboratories. Understanding, disclosing, and standardizing the critical parameters of ferret transmission studies will improve the comparability and reproducibility of pandemic influenza risk assessment and increase the statistical power and, perhaps, accuracy of this model.

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Journal Emerging Infectious Diseases (Print)
Belser, J.A. (Jessica A.), Barclay, W.S, Barr, I.G, Fouchier, R.A.M, Matsuyama, R. (Ryota), Nishiura, H, … Yen, H.-L. (Hui-Ling). (2018). Ferrets as models for influenza virus transmission studies and pandemic risk assessments. Emerging Infectious Diseases (Print), 24(6), 965–971. doi:10.3201/eid2406.172114