1. Epidemiology and Global Health
  2. Microbiology and Infectious Disease
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Mapping influenza transmission in the ferret model to transmission in humans

  1. Michael G Buhnerkempe  Is a corresponding author
  2. Katelyn Gostic
  3. Miran Park
  4. Prianna Ahsan
  5. Jessica A Belser
  6. James O Lloyd-Smith
  1. University of California, Los Angeles, United States
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, United States
Research Article
  • Cited 17
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Cite this article as: eLife 2015;4:e07969 doi: 10.7554/eLife.07969

Abstract

The controversy surrounding 'gain-of-function' experiments on high-consequence avian influenza viruses has highlighted the role of ferret transmission experiments in studying the transmission potential of novel influenza strains. However, the mapping between influenza transmission in ferrets and in humans is unsubstantiated. We address this gap by compiling and analyzing 240 estimates of influenza transmission in ferrets and humans. We demonstrate that estimates of ferret secondary attack rate (SAR) explain 66% of the variation in human SAR estimates at the subtype level. Further analysis shows that ferret transmission experiments have potential to identify influenza viruses of concern for epidemic spread in humans, though small sample sizes and biological uncertainties prevent definitive classification of human transmissibility. Thus, ferret transmission experiments provide valid predictions of pandemic potential of novel influenza strains, though results should continue to be corroborated by targeted virological and epidemiological research.

Article and author information

Author details

  1. Michael G Buhnerkempe

    Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, United States
    For correspondence
    michael.buhnerkempe@ucla.edu
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  2. Katelyn Gostic

    Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, United States
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  3. Miran Park

    Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, United States
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  4. Prianna Ahsan

    Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, United States
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  5. Jessica A Belser

    Influenza Division, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, United States
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  6. James O Lloyd-Smith

    Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, United States
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.

Reviewing Editor

  1. Mark Jit, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, and Public Health England, United Kingdom

Publication history

  1. Received: April 8, 2015
  2. Accepted: September 2, 2015
  3. Accepted Manuscript published: September 2, 2015 (version 1)
  4. Version of Record published: September 29, 2015 (version 2)

Copyright

This is an open-access article, free of all copyright, and may be freely reproduced, distributed, transmitted, modified, built upon, or otherwise used by anyone for any lawful purpose. The work is made available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication.

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