Investigations into human influenza transmission

Killingley, Ben (2013) Investigations into human influenza transmission. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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Limited understanding of influenza transmission has been a frequent obstacle during the development of pandemic influenza infection prevention and mitigation strategies. The science is hotly debated, especially the relative importance of transmission via large droplets or aerosols. Clarification of the relative importance of different modes of transmission is critical for the refinement of evidence-based infection control advice and has been called for by the European Center for Disease Control (ECDC), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the US Institute of Medicine.

The primary aims of this thesis were to investigate influenza transmission; i) by obtaining data concerning viral shedding and the presence of influenza virus in the near environment of infected individuals and ii) through the exploration of a human challenge model to study transmission.

Two major clinical studies have been performed;

• Shedding and environmental deposition of novel A (H1N1) pandemic influenza virus. The primary aims of the study were to correlate the amount of virus detected in a subject’s nose with that recovered from his/her immediate environment (on surfaces and in the air) and with symptom duration and severity. Adults and children, both in hospital and from the community, who had symptoms of influenza infection were enrolled. Information about symptoms was collected and samples were taken including nose swabs, swabs from surfaces and air samples. Forty two subjects infected with influenza A(H1N1)pdm09 were recruited and followed up. The mean duration of nasal viral shedding was 6.2 days (by PCR) and 4.6 days (by culture). Over 25% of cases remained potentially infectious for at least 5 days. Symptom scores and viral shedding were poorly correlated. From surface swabs collected in the vicinity of 40 subjects, 15 (38%) subject locations were contaminated with virus. Overall 36 of 662 (5.4%) surface swabs taken were positive for influenza, two (0.3%) yielded viable virus. Subjects yielding positive surface samples had significantly higher nasal viral loads on illness Day 3 and more prominent respiratory symptom scores. Room air was sampled in the vicinity of 12 subjects and PCR positive samples were obtained from five (42%). Particles small enough to reach the distal lung (≤4µm) were found to contain virus.

• Use of a human influenza challenge model to assess person-to-person transmission: Proof-of-concept study. The primary aim of this study was to establish that an experimentally induced influenza infection is transmissible. Healthy subjects deemed sero-susceptible to influenza A/H3N2/Wisconsin/67/2005 were intranasally inoculated (Donors) and when symptoms began, further sero-susceptible subjects (Recipients) were exposed to Donors during an ‘Exposure Event’. Subjects were in close contact, e.g. playing games and eating meals together, for a total of 28 hours during a 2 day period. Samples were collected to confirm infection status. Among 24 healthy adult subjects, nine were randomised to the ‘Donor’ group and 15 to the ‘Recipient’ group. Following inoculation 5 out of 9 Donors (55%) developed illness and 7 out of 9 (78%) were proven to be infected. After exposure, 5 out of 15 Recipients developed symptoms and 3 out of 15 were proven to be infected. Three others were found to be non sero-susceptible prior to exposure. The overall attack rate in Recipients was 20% but was 25% after adjustment for pre-exposure immunity.

The contact, droplet and aerosol routes of influenza transmission are all likely to have a role. This thesis shows that transmission of influenza via surfaces may be less important than current infection control policies and public guidance documents imply. Air sampling results add to the accumulating evidence that supports the potential for aerosol transmission of influenza. The human challenge model could be used to investigate routes of influenza transmission further and a study funded by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is planned.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Van-Tam, J.
Keywords: Influenza, Transmission, Human
Subjects: W Medicine and related subjects (NLM Classification) > WC Communicable diseases
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences > School of Medicine
Item ID: 13364
Depositing User: EP, Services
Date Deposited: 08 Oct 2013 11:23
Last Modified: 17 Dec 2017 10:32

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