Preliminary findings in ferrets suggest that the novel 2009 H1N1 influenza virus may outcompete human seasonal influenza viruses, researchers say. Tests in animals showed that levels of the 2009 H1N1 virus rose more quickly than levels of the seasonal virus strains, and the new virus caused more severe disease. In line with previous findings by other research groups, the University of Maryland researchers also observed that the novel H1N1 virus was transmitted more easily from infected to uninfected ferrets than either of the two seasonal influenza viruses.
The researchers found no evidence that the 2009 H1N1 virus combined with either of two seasonal flu viruses to form new, so-called reassortant viruses. These findings suggest that while 2009 H1N1 virus probably will predominate in the coming flu season, there may not be biological pressure for the new virus to re-combine with other circulating viruses, the researchers say.
The work was done by Daniel Perez, Ph.D., and colleagues from the University of Maryland. The researchers were supported by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health.
"This elegant study, conducted in a useful animal model of human influenza, provides important information about how the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus interacts with other flu virus strains," says NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D. "The results suggest that 2009 H1N1 influenza may outcompete seasonal flu virus strains and may be more communicable as well. These new data, while preliminary, underscore the need for vaccinating against both seasonal influenza and the 2009 H1N1 influenza this fall and winter."