15/12/2019 Medicine
DOI: 10.1101/2019.12.13.19014381 SemanticScholar ID: 212956172 MAG: 3006106636

Minimal transmission in an influenza A (H3N2) human challenge-transmission model within a controlled exposure environment

Publication Summary

Uncertainty about the importance of influenza transmission by airborne droplet nuclei generates controversy for infection control. Human challenge-transmission studies have been supported as the most promising approach to fill this knowledge gap. Healthy, seronegative volunteer ‘Donors’ (n=52) were randomly selected for intranasal challenge with influenza A/Wisconsin/67/2005 (H3N2). ‘Recipients’ randomized to Intervention (IR, n=40) or Control (CR, n=35) groups were exposed to Donors for four days. IRs wore face shields and hand sanitized frequently to limit large droplet and contact transmission. One transmitted infection was confirmed by serology in a CR, yielding a secondary attack rate of 2.9% among CR, 0% in IR (p=0.47 for group difference), and 1.3% overall, significantly less than 16% (p<0.001) expected based on a proof-of-concept study secondary attack rate and considering that there were twice as many Donors and days of exposure. The main difference between these studies was mechanical building ventilation in the follow-on study, suggesting a possible role for aerosols.Understanding the relative importance of influenza modes of transmission informs strategic use of preventive measures to reduce influenza risk in high-risk settings such as hospitals and is important for pandemic preparedness. Given the increasing evidence from epidemiological modelling, exhaled viral aerosol, and aerobiological survival studies supporting a role for airborne transmission and the potential benefit of respirators (and other precautions designed to prevent inhalation of aerosols) versus surgical masks (mainly effective for reducing exposure to large droplets) to protect healthcare workers, more studies are needed to evaluate the extent of risk posed airborne versus contact and large droplet spray transmission modes. New human challenge-transmission studies should be carefully designed to overcome limitations encountered in the current study. The low secondary attack rate reported herein also suggests that the current challenge-transmission model may no longer be a more promising approach to resolving questions about transmission modes than community-based studies employing environmental monitoring and newer, state-of-the-art deep sequencing-based molecular epidemiological methods.

CAER Authors

Avatar Image for Catherine Noakes

Prof. Catherine Noakes

University of Leeds - Professor of Environmental Engineering for Buildings

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