Influenza B viruses (IBVs) are major contributors to total human influenza disease, responsible for ~1/3 of all infections. These viruses, however, are relatively less studied than the related influenza A viruses (IAVs). While it has historically been assumed that the viral biology and mechanisms of pathogenesis for all influenza viruses were highly similar, studies have shown that IBVs possess unique characteristics. Relative to IAV, IBV encodes distinct viral proteins, displays a different mutational rate, has unique patterns of tropism, and elicits different immune responses. More work is therefore required to define the mechanisms of IBV pathogenesis. One valuable approach to characterize mechanisms of microbial disease is the use of genetically modified pathogens that harbor exogenous reporter genes. Over the last few years, IBV reporter viruses have been developed and used to provide new insights into the host response to infection, viral spread, and the testing of antiviral therapeutics. In this review, we will highlight the history and study of IBVs with particular emphasis on the use of genetically modified viruses and discuss some remaining gaps in knowledge that can be addressed using reporter expressing IBVs.
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