Ninety years after the discovery of the virus causing the influenza disease, this malady remains one of the biggest public health threats to mankind. Currently available drugs and vaccines only partially reduce deaths and hospitalizations. Some of the reasons for this disturbing situation stem from the sophistication of the viral machinery, but another reason is the lack of a complete understanding of the molecular and physiological basis of viral infections and host–pathogen interactions. Even the functions of the influenza proteins, their mechanisms of action and interaction with host proteins have not been fully revealed. These questions have traditionally been studied in mammalian animal models, mainly ferrets and mice (as well as pigs and non-human primates) and in cell lines. Although obviously relevant as models to humans, these experimental systems are very complex and are not conveniently accessible to various genetic, molecular and biochemical approaches. The fact that influenza remains an unsolved problem, in combination with the limitations of the conventional experimental models, motivated increasing attempts to use the power of other models, such as low eukaryotes, including invertebrate, and primary cell cultures. In this review, we summarized the efforts to study influenza in yeast, Drosophila
, zebrafish and primary human tissue cultures and the major contributions these studies have made toward a better understanding of the disease. We feel that these models are still under-utilized and we highlight the unique potential each model has for better comprehending virus–host interactions and viral protein function.
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