[Source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, full page: (LINK). Abstract, edited.]
Influenza A and B viruses with reduced baloxavir susceptibility display attenuated in vitro fitness but retain ferret transmissibility
Jeremy C. Jones, Philippe Noriel Q. Pascua, Thomas P. Fabrizio, Bindumadhav M. Marathe, Patrick Seiler, Subrata Barman, Richard J. Webby, Robert G. Webster, and Elena A. Govorkova
PNAS first published March 26, 2020 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1916825117
Contributed by Robert G. Webster, February 12, 2020 (sent for review October 2, 2019; reviewed by Rodney S. Daniels and Lieve Naesens)
The emergence of influenza viruses with reduced susceptibility to baloxavir marboxil (BXM) would limit the clinical utility of this novel antiviral. To assess the risk of such resistance emerging, we evaluated influenza A and B viruses carrying BXM-reduced susceptibility substitutions and compared their fitness to that of their drug-susceptible wild-type (I38-WT) counterparts. The 38T/F/M substitutions inhibited activity of the virus PA protein, and two of them (38T/F) hindered virus replication in cells. Even so, 38T/F/M viruses could transmit between ferrets, the gold-standard model for human transmission. These findings argue that there is a risk of transmission of BXM-resistant viruses from treated individuals. Whether such viruses could compete with WT viruses in spreading through the wider untreated community is less clear.
Baloxavir marboxil (BXM) was approved in 2018 for treating influenza A and B virus infections. It is a first-in-class inhibitor targeting the endonuclease activity of the virus polymerase acidic (PA) protein. Clinical trial data revealed that PA amino acid substitutions at residue 38 (I38T/F/M) reduced BXM potency and caused virus rebound in treated patients, although the fitness characteristics of the mutant viruses were not fully defined. To determine the fitness impact of the I38T/F/M substitutions, we generated recombinant A/California/04/2009 (H1N1)pdm09, A/Texas/71/2017 (H3N2), and B/Brisbane/60/2008 viruses with I38T/F/M and examined drug susceptibility in vitro, enzymatic properties, replication efficiency, and transmissibility in ferrets. Influenza viruses with I38T/F/M substitutions exhibited reduced baloxavir susceptibility, with 38T causing the greatest reduction. The I38T/F/M substitutions impaired PA endonuclease activity as compared to that of wild-type (I38-WT) PA. However, only 38T/F A(H3N2) substitutions had a negative effect on polymerase complex activity. The 38T/F substitutions decreased replication in cells among all viruses, whereas 38M had minimal impact. Despite variable fitness consequences in vitro, all 38T/M viruses disseminated to naive ferrets by contact and airborne transmission, while 38F-containing A(H3N2) and B viruses failed to transmit via the airborne route. Reversion of 38T/F/M to I38-WT was rare among influenza A viruses in this study, suggesting stable retention of 38T/F/M genotypes during these transmission events. BXM reduced susceptibility-associated mutations had variable effects on in vitro fitness of influenza A and B viruses, but the ability of these viruses to transmit in vivo indicates a risk of their spreading from BXM-treated individuals.
influenza – endonuclease inhibitor – baloxavir marboxil – PA protein – I38T substitution
1 To whom correspondence may be addressed. Email: Jeremy.email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Author contributions: J.C.J., P.N.Q.P., T.P.F., R.J.W., R.G.W., and E.A.G. designed research; J.C.J., P.N.Q.P., B.M.M., and P.S. performed research; J.C.J., P.N.Q.P., T.P.F., and S.B. contributed new reagents/analytic tools; J.C.J., P.N.Q.P., T.P.F., and E.A.G. analyzed data; and J.C.J., P.N.Q.P., R.J.W., R.G.W., and E.A.G. wrote the paper.
Reviewers: R.S.D., The Francis Crick Institute; and L.N., Katholieke Universiteit Leuven.
Competing interest statement: E.A.G. reports receiving consultant fees and travel support from Genentech/Roche for serving on an advisory board. The other authors declare no conflicts of interest.
This article contains supporting information online at https://www.pnas.org/lookup/suppl/doi:10.1073/pnas.1916825117/-/DCSupplemental.
Published under the PNAS license.
Keywords: Seasonal Influenza; Antivirals; Drugs Resistance; Baloxavir.