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It is possible to model the progression of influenza virus from the upper respiratory tract to the lower respiratory tract in the mouse using viral inoculum delivered in a restricted manner to the nose. In this model, infection with the A/Udorn/307/72 (Udorn) strain of virus results ultimately in high viral titers in both the trachea and lungs. In contrast, the A/Puerto Rico/8/34 (PR8) strain causes an infection that is almost entirely limited to the nasal passages. The factors that govern the progression of virus down the respiratory tract are not well understood. Here, we show that, while PR8 virus grows to high titers in the nose, an inhibitor present in the saliva blocks further progression of infection to the trachea and lungs and renders an otherwise lethal dose of virus completely asymptomatic. In vitro, the salivary inhibitor was capable of potent neutralization of PR8 virus and an additional 20 strains of type A virus and two type B strains that were tested. The exceptions were Udorn virus and the closely related H3N2 strains A/Port Chalmers/1/73 and A/Victoria/3/75. Characterization of the salivary inhibitor showed it to be independent of sialic acid and other carbohydrates for its function. This and other biochemical properties, together with its virus strain specificity and in vivo function, indicate that the mouse salivary inhibitor is a previously undescribed innate inhibitory molecule that may have evolved to provide pulmonary protection of the species from fatal influenza virus infection.

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Journal Article

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