Interval Between Infections and Viral Hierarchy Are Determinants of Viral Interference Following Influenza Virus Infection in a Ferret Model

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Epidemiological studies suggest that, following infection with influenza virus, there is a short period during which a host experiences a lower susceptibility to infection with other influenza viruses. This viral interference appears to be independent of any antigenic similarities between the viruses. We used the ferret model of human influenza to systematically investigate viral interference.


Ferrets were first infected then challenged 1-14 days later with pairs of influenza A(H1N1)pdm09, influenza A(H3N2), and influenza B viruses circulating in 2009 and 2010.


Viral interference was observed when the interval between initiation of primary infection and subsequent challenge was <1 week. This effect was virus specific and occurred between antigenically related and unrelated viruses. Coinfections occurred when 1 or 3 days separated infections. Ongoing shedding from the primary virus infection was associated with viral interference after the secondary challenge.


The interval between infections and the sequential combination of viruses were important determinants of viral interference. The influenza viruses in this study appear to have an ordered hierarchy according to their ability to block or delay infection, which may contribute to the dominance of different viruses often seen in an influenza season.

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