Background: The 2009 H1N1 pandemic emerged even though seasonal H1N1 viruses have circulated for decades. Epidemiological evidence suggested that the current seasonal vaccine did not offer significant protection from the novel pandemic, and that people over the age of 50 were less susceptible to infection.
Objectives: In a mouse challenge study with the 2009 pandemic H1N1 virus, we evaluated protective immune responses elicited by prior infection with human and swine influenza A viruses.
Results: Mice infected with A/Mexico/4108/2009 (Mex09) showed significant weight loss and 40% mortality. Prior infection with a 1976 classical swine H1N1 virus resulted in complete protection from Mex09 challenge. Prior infection with either a 2009 or a 1940 seasonal H1N1 influenza virus provided partial protection and a >100-fold reduction in viral lung titers at day 4 post-infection.
Conclusions: These findings indicate that in experimental animals recently induced immunity to 1918-derived H1N1 seasonal influenza viruses, and to a 1976 swine influenza virus, afford a degree of protection against the 2009 pandemic virus. Implications of these findings are discussed in the context of accumulating data suggesting partial protection of older persons during the 2009 pandemic.