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Infectious Diseases - Physiology - Respiratory Medicine

Segregation of Virulent Influenza A(H1N1) Variants in the Lower Respiratory Tract of Critically Ill Patients during the 2010–2011 Seasonal Epidemic
Published: Wednesday, December 14, 2011
Author: Antonio Piralla et al.

by Antonio Piralla, Elena Pariani, Francesca Rovida, Giulia Campanini, Alba Muzzi, Vincenzo Emmi, Giorgio A. Iotti, Antonio Pesenti, Pier Giulio Conaldi, Alessandro Zanetti, Fausto Baldanti, and the Severe Influenza A Task Force


Since its appearance in 2009, the pandemic influenza A(H1N1) virus circulated worldwide causing several severe infections.


Respiratory samples from patients with 2009 influenza A(H1N1) and acute respiratory distress attending 24 intensive care units (ICUs) as well as from patients with lower respiratory tract infections not requiring ICU admission and community upper respiratory tract infections in the Lombardy region (10 million inhabitants) of Italy during the 2010–2011 winter-spring season, were analyzed.


In patients with severe ILI, the viral load was higher in bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) with respect to nasal swab (NS), (p<0.001) suggesting a higher virus replication in the lower respiratory tract. Four distinct virus clusters (referred to as cluster A to D) circulated simultaneously. Most (72.7%, n?=?48) of the 66 patients infected with viruses belonging to cluster A had a severe (n?=?26) or moderate ILI (n?=?22). Amino acid mutations (V26I, I116M, A186T, D187Y, D222G/N, M257I, S263F, I286L/M, and N473D) were observed only in patients with severe ILI. D222G/N variants were detected exclusively in BAL samples.


Multiple virus clusters co-circulated during the 2010–2011 winter-spring season. Severe or moderate ILI were associated with specific 2009 influenza A(H1N1) variants, which replicated preferentially in the lower respiratory tract.