Pathogenesis of and immunity to avian influenza A H5 viruses.Biomed Pharmacother 2000; 54(4):178-87BP
In 1997 in Hong Kong, 18 human cases of respiratory illness were caused by an avian influenza A H5N1 virus. Although avian influenza viruses had not previously been known to cause respiratory illness in humans, the H5N1 viruses caused severe illness and death, primarily in individuals aged > 12 years. The introduction of H5N1 viruses into humans raised concerns about the potential of these viruses to cause a pandemic. We have used the BALB/c mouse to better understand the pathogenesis of and immunity to the H5N1 viruses in a mammalian model. Previously, we demonstrated that H5N1 viruses isolated from humans replicated efficiently in the lungs of mice without prior adaptation to this host. Two general phenotypes of pathogenicity of H5N1 viruses, based on high and low lethality for mice, were observed. We now demonstrate that in addition to a lethal outcome, H5N1 viruses with a high pathogenicity phenotype exhibit additional features that include rapid and uncontrolled replication in the lungs of infected mice, dissemination and replication of the virus in other organs, and depletion of peripheral blood leukocytes. The BALB/c mouse model was also used to better understand the parameters of protective immunity to the H5N1 viruses. Prior infection with H5N1 viruses of low pathogenicity or an antigenically related non-pathogenic H5N3 virus protected mice from death by infection with a highly pathogenic HK/483 virus. Serum hemagglutination-inhibition antibody titers of 40 or greater were associated with protection of mice from death. Immunization of mice with baculovirus-expressed recombinant H5 hemagglutinin protein or a previously defined HS-specific synthetic peptide induced MHC class II restricted CTL activity. Mice that had CTL activity but no serum hemagglutination-inhibition antibody were not protected from a lethal challenge with H5N1 virus. These results suggest that antibody is required for protection of mice against lethal challenge with H5N1 viruses of the high pathogenicity phenotype.