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Protection by anti-neuraminidase immunity in chickens

Posted by plosmedicine on 31 Mar 2009 at 00:06 GMT

Author: Dick Madeley
Position: Retired Professor of Clinical Virology
Institution: N/A
Additional Authors: None
Submitted Date: February 21, 2007
Published Date: February 22, 2007
This comment was originally posted as a “Reader Response” on the publication date indicated above. All Reader Responses are now available as comments.

I was interested to read your issue on influenza and, in particular, evidence for protection by anti-neuraminidase immunity. Your readers may be interested to look up a paper published many years ago by Bill Allan, Alan Kendal and myself in the Journal of General Virology in 1971 on this topic (1). It is, to the best of my knowledge, the only study published in a homologous system in which the virus causes a fatal infection. We used lethal strains of avian influenza A (then known as Fowl Plague) to immunise and then challenge the natural host (chickens) with three strains, two having the same haemagglutinin, two having the same neuraminidase and the third pair having no similar antigens.

Our study showed that anti-neuraminidase 'immunity' (however expressed) did confer some, though not total, protection against an otherwise 100% fatal infection. This might have accounted, in part at least, for the slow take-off of H3N2 Hong Kong strains in 1968/9 and may be relevant to thoughts about H5N1 avian strains now.

Dick Madeley
Emeritus Professor of Clinical Virology
University of Newcastle upon Tyne, UK


1. Allan WH, Madeley CR, Kendal AP. Studies with avian influenza viruses: Cross protection experiments in chickens. J Gen Virol 1971;12:79-84.

No competing interests declared.