Sterilizing immunity to influenza virus infection requires local antigen-specific T cell response in the lungs

Sci Rep. 2016 Sep 6;6:32973. doi: 10.1038/srep32973.


Sterilizing immunity is a unique immune status, which prevents effective virus infection into the host. It is different from the immunity that allows infection but with subsequent successful eradication of the virus. Pre-infection induces sterilizing immunity to homologous influenza virus challenge in ferret. In our antigen-specific experimental system, mice pre-infected with PR8 influenza virus through nasal route are likewise resistant to reinfection of the same strain of virus. The virus is cleared before establishment of effective infection. Intramuscular influenza virus injection confers protection against re-infection with facilitated virus clearance but not sterilizing immunity. Pre-infection and intramuscular injection generates comparable innate immunity and antibody response, but only pre-infection induces virus receptor reduction and efficient antigen-specific T cell response in the lungs. Pre-infection with nH1N1 influenza virus induces virus receptor reduction but not PR8-specific T cell immune response in the lungs and cannot prevent infection of PR8 influenza virus. Pre-infection with PR8 virus induced PR8-specific T cell response in the lungs but cannot prevent infection of nH1N1 virus either. These results reveal that antigen-specific T cell immunity is required for sterilizing immunity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Viral / blood
  • Antibodies, Viral / immunology*
  • Antigens / immunology*
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / virology
  • Influenza A Virus, H1N1 Subtype / immunology*
  • Lung / immunology*
  • Lung / virology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Orthomyxoviridae Infections / immunology*
  • Orthomyxoviridae Infections / virology


  • Antibodies, Viral
  • Antigens