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Respiratory tract explant infection dynamics of influenza A virus in California sea lions, northern elephant seals, and rhesus macaques

By Hongwei Liu, Magdalena Plancarte, Erin E Ball, Christopher M Weiss, Omar Gonzales-Viera, Karen Holcomb, Zhong-Min Ma, Aaron Mark Allen, J. Rachel Reader, Pádraig J. Duignan, Barbie Halaska, Zenab Khan, Divya Kriti, Jayeeta Dutta, Harm van Bakel, Kenneth Jackson, Patricia A. Pesavento, Walter M Boyce, Lark L Coffey

Posted 19 Oct 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.10.15.342055

To understand susceptibility of wild California sea lions and Northern elephant seals to influenza A virus (IAV), we developed an ex vivo respiratory explant model and used it to compare infection kinetics for multiple IAV subtypes. We first established the approach using explants from colonized rhesus macaques, a model for human IAV. Trachea, bronchi, and lungs from 11 California sea lions, 2 Northern elephant seals and 10 rhesus macaques were inoculated within 24 hours post-mortem with 6 strains representing 4 IAV subtypes. Explants from the 3 species showed similar IAV infection kinetics with peak viral titers 48-72 hours post-inoculation that increased by 2-4 log10 plaque forming units (PFU)/explant relative to the inoculum. Immunohistochemistry localized IAV infection to apical epithelial cells. These results demonstrate that respiratory tissue explants from wild marine mammals support IAV infection. In the absence of the ability to perform experimental infections of marine mammals, this ex vivo culture of respiratory tissues mirrors the in vivo environment and serves as a tool to study IAV susceptibility, host-range, and tissue tropism.

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