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Science. 2004 Jul 16;305(5682):371-6. Epub 2004 Jun 24.

Mapping the antigenic and genetic evolution of influenza virus.

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  • 1Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, Downing Street, Cambridge CB2 3EJ, UK.


The antigenic evolution of influenza A (H3N2) virus was quantified and visualized from its introduction into humans in 1968 to 2003. Although there was remarkable correspondence between antigenic and genetic evolution, significant differences were observed: Antigenic evolution was more punctuated than genetic evolution, and genetic change sometimes had a disproportionately large antigenic effect. The method readily allows monitoring of antigenic differences among vaccine and circulating strains and thus estimation of the effects of vaccination. Further, this approach offers a route to predicting the relative success of emerging strains, which could be achieved by quantifying the combined effects of population level immune escape and viral fitness on strain evolution.

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