The A/Chicken/Pennsylvania/1/83 influenza virus, isolated from a respiratory infection of chickens, is an avirulent H5N2 virus containing subgenomic RNAs (W.J. Bean, Y. Kawaoka, J.M. Wood, J.E. Pearson, and R.G. Webster, J. Virol. 54:151-160, 1985). We show here that defective interfering particles are present in this virus population. The virus had a low ratio of plaque-forming to hemagglutinating units and produced interference with standard virus multiplication in infectious center reduction assays. Subgenomic RNAs were identified as internally deleted polymerase RNAs. We have confirmed that this virus protects chickens from lethal H5N2 influenza virus infection. This protective effect appeared to be due to the inhibition of virulent virus multiplication. Additionally, subgenomic RNAs derived from polymerase RNAs were detected in 5 of 18 RNA preparations from animal influenza virus isolates. Therefore, defective interfering particles are sometimes produced in natural influenza virus infections, not just under laboratory conditions. These particles may be capable of suppressing the pathogenic effect of virulent virus infections in nature
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