Relatively little is known about the viral factors contributing to the lethality of the 1918 pandemic, although its unparalleled virulence was likely due in part to the newly discovered PB1-F2 protein. This protein, while unnecessary for replication, increases apoptosis in monocytes, alters viral polymerase activity in vitro, enhances inflammation and increases secondary pneumonia in vivo. However, the effects the PB1-F2 protein have in vivo remain unclear. To address the mechanisms involved, we intranasally infected groups of mice with either influenza A virus PR8 or a genetically engineered virus that expresses the 1918 PB1-F2 protein on a PR8 background, PR8-PB1-F2(1918). Mice inoculated with PR8 had viral concentrations peaking at 72 hours, while those infected with PR8-PB1-F2(1918) reached peak concentrations earlier, 48 hours. Mice given PR8-PB1-F2(1918) also showed a faster decline in viral loads. We fit a mathematical model to these data to estimate parameter values. The model supports a higher viral production rate per cell and a higher infected cell death rate with the PR8-PB1-F2(1918) virus. We discuss the implications these mechanisms have during an infection with a virus expressing a virulent PB1-F2 on the possibility of a pandemic and on the importance of antiviral treatments.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Modeling and Simulation
- Molecular Biology
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
- Computational Theory and Mathematics