Untargeted metabolomics analysis of the upper respiratory tract of ferrets following influenza A virus infection and oseltamivir treatment

Metabolomics. 2019 Mar 1;15(3):33. doi: 10.1007/s11306-019-1499-0.


Introduction: Influenza is a highly contagious respiratory disease that causes high global morbidity and mortality each year. The dynamics of an influenza infection on the host metabolism, and how metabolism is altered in response to neuraminidase inhibitor drug therapy, is still in its infancy but of great importance.

Objectives: We aim to investigate the suitability of ferret nasal wash samples for metabolomics-based analysis and characterization of influenza infections and oseltamivir treatment.

Methods: Virological and metabolic analyses were performed on nasal wash samples collected from ferrets treated with oseltamivir or a placebo. Untargeted metabolomics was performed using a gas chromatography coupled with mass spectrometery (GC-MS) based protocol that comprised a retention time (RT) locked method and the use of a commercial metabolomics library.

Results: Ferret activity was reduced at 2-3 days post infection, which coincided with the highest influenza viral titre. The metabolomics data indicated a shift in metabolism during various stages of infection. The neuraminidase inhibitor oseltamivir created considerable downregulation of energy center metabolites (glucose, sucrose, glycine and glutamine), which generated high levels of branched amino acids. This further increased branched amino acid degradation and deregulation via glycerate-type intermediates and biosynthesis of fatty acids in oseltamivir-treated animals where abrogated weight loss was observed.

Conclusion: Metabolomics was used to profile influenza infection and antiviral drug treatment in ferrets. This has the potential to provide indicators for the early diagnosis of influenza infection and assess the effectiveness of drug therapies.

Keywords: Branched amino acid down-regulation; Chemometrics; GC-MS; Influenza virus; Metabolomics; Oseltamivir.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antiviral Agents / pharmacology
  • Ferrets / metabolism*
  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry / methods
  • Influenza A virus / metabolism
  • Influenza A virus / pathogenicity
  • Metabolomics
  • Orthomyxoviridae Infections / metabolism*
  • Oseltamivir / pharmacology
  • Respiratory System
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / metabolism*


  • Antiviral Agents
  • Oseltamivir