Human parainfluenza virus type 3 (HPIV-3) is a significant cause of lower respiratory tract infections, with the most severe disease in young infants, immunocompromised individuals, and the elderly. HPIV-3 infections are currently untreatable with licensed therapeutics, and prophylactic and therapeutic options are needed for patients at risk. To complement existing human airway models of HPIV-3 infection and develop an animal model to assess novel intervention strategies, we evaluated infection and transmission of HPIV-3 in ferrets. A well-characterized human clinical isolate (CI) of HPIV-3 engineered to express enhanced green fluorescent protein (rHPIV-3 CI-1-EGFP) was passaged on primary human airway epithelial cells (HAE) or airway organoids (AO) to avoid tissue culture adaptations. rHPIV3 CI-1-EGFP infection was assessed in vitro in ferret AO and in ferrets in vivo. Undifferentiated and differentiated ferret AO cultures supported rHPIV-3 CI-1-EGFP replication, but the ferret primary airway cells from AO were less susceptible and permissive than HAE. In vivo rHPIV-3 CI-1-EGFP replicated in the upper and lower airways of ferrets and targeted respiratory epithelial cells, olfactory epithelial cells, type I pneumocytes, and type II pneumocytes. The infection efficiently induced specific antibody responses. Taken together, ferrets are naturally susceptible to HPIV-3 infection; however, limited replication was observed that led to neither overt clinical signs nor ferret-to-ferret transmission. However, in combination with ferret AO, the ferret model of HPIV-3 infection, tissue tropism, and neutralizing antibodies complements human ex vivo lung models and can be used as a platform for prevention and treatment studies for this important respiratory pathogen. IMPORTANCE HPIV-3 is an important cause of pediatric disease and significantly impacts the elderly. Increasing numbers of immunocompromised patients suffer from HPIV-3 infections, often related to problems with viral clearance. There is a need to model HPIV-3 infections in vitro and in vivo to evaluate novel prophylaxis and treatment options. Currently existing animal models lack the potential for studying animal-to-animal transmission or the effect of immunosuppressive therapy. Here, we describe the use of the ferret model in combination with authentic clinical viruses to further complement human ex vivo models, providing a platform to study approaches to prevent and treat HPIV-3 infection. Although we did not detect ferret-to-ferret transmission in our studies, these studies lay the groundwork for further refinement of the ferret model to immunocompromised ferrets, allowing for studies of severe HPIV-3-associated disease. Such models for preclinical evaluation of prophylaxis and antivirals can contribute to reducing the global health burden of HPIV-3.
This work was supported by National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), NIH, grant R01 AI114736 to A.M.
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