Monkey models for pandemic H1N1 influenza virus research

22 June 2015

BPRC - 1. Monkey models for pandemic H1N1 influenza virus research

Influenza continues to threaten a large part of the world´s population, mainly young children, elderly and people with a compromised immune system. The influenza virus differs from year to year, complicating vaccination strategies. More research is warranted to combat this important disease. BPRC researchers have characterized an influenza virus infection in different monkey species to establish a model system for influenza research that mimics the human situation.

The immune system and physiology of monkeys are highly similar to that of humans. These features are important for investigations into disease mechanisms and treatment regimes. Before embarking on this type of work, a detailed characterization of the animal model is important to determine the validity of the model.

BPRC researchers have now investigated in detail the characteristics of a pandemic H1N1 influenza virus infection in a head-to-head comparison between three different monkey species. It was shown (http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0126132) that marmosets are susceptible to pandemic H1N1. In cynomolgus monkeys they found higher levels of virus in the upper airways and lungs and higher increases in body temperature as compared to rhesus monkeys, while rhesus monkeys showed more clinical symptoms. The high virus levels in cynomolgus monkeys are possibly due to a 50 times more abundant expression of the main human influenza virus receptor in the airways of these monkeys as compared to rhesus monkeys. Knowledge on the different characteristics of these influenza virus infection models is important, because it allows selection of the most suitable model depending on the type of intervention strategy that is tested.