The primary complication of seasonal influenza in humans is viral pneumonia. A conventional animal model-intranasal inoculation of ferrets with 106median tissue culture infectious dose of virus-results in disease that is neither consistent nor comparable with severe viral pneumonia in humans. Therefore, the authors modified the experimental procedures by increasing the median tissue culture infectious dose to 109and by inoculating via the intratracheal route, testing these procedures with H1N1 strains (A/Bilthoven/3075/1978 and A/Netherlands/26/2007) and H3N2 strains (A/Bilthoven/16190/1968 and A/Netherlands/177/2008) of seasonal influenza virus. The ferrets of all groups (n = 3 per virus strain) had clinical signs, increased body temperature, virus excretion from day 1, loss of body weight, and increased relative lung weight at 4 days postinoculation. All ferrets had severe pulmonary consolidation, and histologic examination revealed moderate to severe necrotizing bronchointerstitial pneumonia with severe edema, necrosis of alveolar epithelium, inflammatory infiltrates in alveolar septa and lumina, epithelial regeneration, and perivascular and peribronchiolar inflammatory infiltrates. The lesions were associated with the presence of influenza virus antigen in respiratory epithelium by immunohistochemistry. Although all 4 virus strains caused pulmonary lesions of comparable severity, virus isolation in the lungs, trachea, nasal concha, and tonsils showed higher mean virus titers in the H1/07 and H3/68 groups than in the H1/78 and H3/08 groups. In conclusion, the above H1N1 and H3N2 strains cause severe pneumonia in ferrets by use of the modified experimental procedures and provide a good model for pneumonia caused by seasonal influenza A virus infection in humans.

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Veterinary Pathology
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

van den Brand, J.M.A, Stittelaar, K.J, Leijten, L.M.E, van Amerongen, G, Simon, J.H, Osterhaus, A.D.M.E, & Kuiken, T. (2012). Modification of the Ferret Model for Pneumonia From Seasonal Human Influenza A Virus Infection. Veterinary Pathology, 49(3), 562–568. doi:10.1177/0300985811429812