Influenza C and D Viruses Demonstrated a Differential Respiratory Tissue Tropism in a Comparative Pathogenesis Study in Guinea Pigs

Chithra C. Sreenivasan, Runxia Liu, Rongyuan Gao, Yicheng Guo, Ben M. Hause, Milton Thomas, Ahsan Naveed, Travis Clement, Dana Rausch, Jane Christopher-Hennings, Eric Nelson, Julian Druce, Miaoyun Zhao, Radhey S. Kaushik, Qingsheng Li, Zizhang Sheng, Dan Wang, Feng Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Influenza C virus (ICV) is increasingly associated with community-acquired pneumonia (CAP) in children and its disease severity is worse than the influenza B virus, but similar to influenza A virus associated CAP. Despite the ubiquitous infection landscape of ICV in humans, little is known about its replication and pathobiology in animals. The goal of this study was to understand the replication kinetics, tissue tropism, and pathogenesis of human ICV (huICV) in comparison to the swine influenza D virus (swIDV) in guinea pigs. Intranasal inoculation of both viruses did not cause clinical signs, however, the infected animals shed virus in nasal washes. The huICV replicated in the nasal turbinates, soft palate, and trachea but not in the lungs while swIDV replicated in all four tissues. A comparative analysis of tropism and pathogenesis of these two related seven-segmented influenza viruses revealed that swIDV-infected animals exhibited broad tissue tropism with an increased rate of shedding on 3, 5, and 7 dpi and high viral loads in the lungs compared to huICV. Seroconversion occurred late in the huICV group at 14 dpi, while swIDV-infected animals seroconverted at 7 dpi. Guinea pigs infected with huICV exhibited mild to moderate inflammatory changes in the epithelium of the soft palate and trachea, along with mucosal damage and multifocal alveolitis in the lungs. In summary, the replication kinetics and pathobiological characteristics of ICV in guinea pigs agree with the clinical manifestation of ICV infection in humans, and hence guinea pigs could be used to study these distantly related influenza viruses. IMPORTANCE Similar to influenza A and B, ICV infections are seen associated with bacterial and viral co-infections which complicates the assessment of its real clinical significance. Further, the antivirals against influenza A and B viruses are ineffective against ICV which mandates the need to study the pathobiological aspects of this virus. Here we demonstrated that the respiratory tract of guinea pigs possesses specific viral receptors for ICV. We also compared the replication kinetics and pathogenesis of huICV and swIDV, as these viruses share 50% sequence identity. The tissue tropism and pathology associated with huICV in guinea pigs are analogous to the mild respiratory disease caused by ICV in humans, thereby demonstrating the suitability of guinea pigs to study ICV. Our comparative analysis revealed that huICV and swIDV replicated differentially in the guinea pigs suggesting that the type-specific genetic differences can result in the disparity of the viral shedding and tissue tropism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e0035623
JournalJournal of Virology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 29 2023


  • Guinea pigs
  • Influenza C
  • Influenza D
  • Tissue tropism
  • animal models
  • in vivo
  • influenza
  • pathogenesis
  • virulence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Insect Science
  • Virology


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