Resistance to neuraminidase inhibitors in influenza A virus isolated from mallards

University dissertation from Kalmar/Växjö : Linnaeus University Press

Abstract: Influenza A virus belongs to the Orothomyxoviridae family of viruses and is one of the most common pathogens that cause infections of the respiratory tract. The aim of this thesis was to investigate if neuraminidase inhibitor (NAI) Tamiflu® (oseltamivir, OC) and Relenza® (zanamivir, ZA) - related resistance mutations exist in the neuraminidase (NA) gene of viruses collected from wild birds.A new set of degenerate primers was designed for the sequencing procedure, which resulted in a protocol that reduced time and costs of NA sequencing. This protocol was employed for subtyping of 120 NA genes (i.e. influenza viruses). Altogether, 230 NA sequences from avian influenza viruses originating from wild mallards (Ottenby, Sweden) were scanned for NAI-related mutations together with 5,490 avian, 379 swine and 122 environmental NA sequences from the NCBI dataset. The screening showed a distinction between the numbers of mutants found in avian virus sequences derived from NCBI (2.4%) as compared to virus sequences form mallards (6.5%). This is the first report of NAI resistance mutations in viruses isolated from wild birds.The mutants carrying NAI resistance-related and resistance-unrelated mutations were screened using NA inhibition assay (NAIA) with ZA and OC inhibitors. The majority of mutations assayed showed IC50 values indicating an inhibitor sensitive phenotype. One H12N3 mutant showed a cross-resistant phenotype, i.e. insensitive to both ZA and OC treatment. Protein structure homology-modeling indicated that this cross-resistance might be associated to a D151K mutation, possibly supported by changes in NA residue 149, 150, 152 and 153. In addition, an OC resistance-related emergence of H274Y mutants was revealed in an experimental set up where mallard ducks, subjected to different concentrations of OC ( 0.28, 3.5 and 280 nM)  in their water pool, were infected with avian H1N1 virus.In conclusion, this thesis provides new insights into the field of NAI resistance in avian influenza virus as well as indicating the evolutionary forces modern drug design has to confront. This thesis also emphasizes the importance of a continuous search for new means of protecting the human population from this potentially devastating pathogen. 

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