Knowledge of influenza virus evolution at the point of transmission and at the intrahost level remains limited, particularly for human hosts. Here, we analyze a unique viral data set of next-generation sequencing (NGS) samples generated from a human influenza challenge study wherein 17 healthy subjects were inoculated with cell- and egg-passaged virus. Nasal wash samples collected from 7 of these subjects were successfully deep sequenced. From these, we characterized changes in the subjects' viral populations during infection and identified differences between the virus in these samples and the viral stock used to inoculate the subjects. We first calculated pairwise genetic distances between the subjects' nasal wash samples, the viral stock, and the influenza virus A/Wisconsin/67/2005 (H3N2) reference strain used to generate the stock virus. These distances revealed that considerable viral evolution occurred at various points in the human challenge study. Further quantitative analyses indicated that (i) the viral stock contained genetic variants that originated and likely were selected for during the passaging process, (ii) direct intranasal inoculation with the viral stock resulted in a selective bottleneck that reduced nonsynonymous genetic diversity in the viral hemagglutinin and nucleoprotein, and (iii) intrahost viral evolution continued over the course of infection. These intrahost evolutionary dynamics were dominated by purifying selection. Our findings indicate that rapid viral evolution can occur during acute influenza infection in otherwise healthy human hosts when the founding population size of the virus is large, as is the case with direct intranasal inoculation.
Influenza viruses circulating among humans are known to rapidly evolve over time. However, little is known about how influenza virus evolves across single transmission events and over the course of a single infection. To address these issues, we analyze influenza virus sequences from a human challenge experiment that initiated infection with a cell- and egg-passaged viral stock, which appeared to have adapted during its preparation. We find that the subjects' viral populations differ genetically from the viral stock, with subjects' viral populations having lower representation of the amino-acid-changing variants that arose during viral preparation. We also find that most of the viral evolution occurring over single infections is characterized by further decreases in the frequencies of these amino-acid-changing variants and that only limited intrahost genetic diversification through new mutations is apparent. Our findings indicate that influenza virus populations can undergo rapid genetic changes during acute human infections.
Sobel Leonard A, McClain MT, Smith GJ, Wentworth DE, Halpin RA, Lin X, Ransier A, Stockwell TB, Das SR, Gilbert AS, Lambkin-Williams R, Ginsburg GS, Woods CW, Koelle K. (2016). Deep Sequencing of Influenza A Virus from a Human Challenge Study Reveals a Selective Bottleneck and Only Limited Intrahost Genetic Diversification. Journal of virology, 90(24)