Antigenically different strains of mouse-adapted PR8 influenza A virus have been produced by 17 serial passages of the virus in the lungs of mice immunized with the homologous agent. Comparative serological tests show that the variant strains share antigenic components with the parent strain but the dominant antigen is different. By means of antibody absorption it was shown that the "new" antigenic component of the variant was already present in minor amounts up to the eighth passage and thereafter gained prominence with continued passage in vaccinated mice.
Groups of mice vaccinated with either the PR8-S or T21 virus and having comparable antibody titers showed no growth of virus in the lungs following aid-borne challenge with homologous strains. On the other hand, following heterologous air-borne challenge no deaths occurred, but virus grew in the lungs of both groups of vaccinated mice. Almost unrestricted virus multiplication took place in the lungs of mice vaccinated with the parent strain and challenged with the PR8-T21 virus which resulted in extensive consolidation. Less virus grew in the lungs of the mice vaccinated with the variant strains and challenged with the PR8-S virus. In these animals only microscopic evidence of changes due to virus growth in the lungs was observed.
The successful serial passage of PR8 influenza A virus in immunized animals was dependent on the initial selection of mice with uniformly low H.I. antibody titers as determined on tail blood, and the intranasal instillation of sufficient virus to favor the survival of those virus particles least related to the antibodies present. The epidemiological implications of these observations are discussed briefly.