A defective interfering particle (DIP) in the context of influenza A virus is a virion with a significantly shortened RNA segment substituting one of eight full-length parent RNA segments, such that it is preferentially amplified. Hence, a cell co-infected with DIPs will produce mainly DIPs, suppressing infectious virus yields and affecting infection kinetics. Unfortunately, the quantification of DIPs contained in a sample is difficult because they are indistinguishable from standard virus (STV). Using a mathematical model, we investigated the standard experimental method for counting DIPs based on the reduction in STV yield (Bellett & Cooper, 1959, Journal of General Microbiology 21, 498-509 (doi:10.1099/00221287-21-3-498)). We found the method is valid for counting DIPs provided that: (i) an STVinfected cell's co-infection window is approximately half its eclipse phase (it blocks infection by other virions before it begins producing progeny virions), (ii) a cell co-infected by STV and DIP produces less than 1 STV per 1000 DIPs and (iii) a high MOI of STV stock (more than 4 PFU per cell) is added to perform the assay. Prior work makes no mention of these criteria such that the method has been applied incorrectly in several publications discussed herein. We determined influenza A virus meets these criteria, making the method suitable for counting influenza A DIPs.
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