A comparative study was undertaken of the pathogenesis of infection of the allantoic sac of the chick embryo with three influenza viruses of differing virulence, and of the influence of hydrocortisone on the course of infection.

Judged on the basis of earlier onset and greater degree of inflammatory response and diminished survival time of infected embryos, Mel. and Lee viruses were markedly more virulent than PR8, despite the earlier appearance of virus in PR8-infected embryos. Interferon appeared first and in greater quantity in the allantoic fluid of Lee-infected embryos and latest with PR8 infection. Thus, there was no correlation of avirulence and better interferon production with the viruses under study in the present system. Furthermore, evidence obtained suggested that Lee virus ("virulent") was most susceptible to interferon action, and also that viral synthesis in the chorioallantoic membrane with PR8 ("avirulent") persisted after the appearance of interferon.

The injection of hydrocortisone within 2 hr of the initiation of infection delayed the synthesis of all three viruses; had no significant effect upon the inflammatory response; and transiently inhibited the synthesis of interferon, while prolonging the survival of Lee- and Mel.-infected embryos. Late administration of hydrocortisone suppresses both the inflammatory response and the production of interferon.

Only in the case of Lee virus infection did hydrocortisone administration lead to augmentation of final yields of virus with the low infection multiplicity employed in the present experiments. It is postulated that Lee virus is a better inducer of interferon because its infectivity in vivo is more rapidly inactivated. As a consequence synthesis of Lee virus is more under the control of endogenous interferon than is the case with PR8 or Mel. virus. Therefore, inhibition of interferon synthesis with hydrocortisone has a greater influence on final yields of Lee virus.

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