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Vaccine. 2006 Nov 10;24(44-46):6683-90. Epub 2006 Jun 16.

Reassortment between human A(H3N2) viruses is an important evolutionary mechanism.

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National Reference Centre for Influenza, Robert Koch Institute, Nordufer 20, 13353 Berlin, Germany.


Phylogenetic relationships of whole genomes of H3N2 viruses circulating in Germany during a 6-year period from 1998 to 2005 revealed the co-circulation of different lineages of viruses. Multiple reassortment events occurred during this time between viruses belonging to different lineages or different subgroups. Strains isolated during 1998-1999 were characterised by a surprisingly high heterogeneity and multiple reassortment events. Seventy percent of the examined 1998-1999 viruses had completely different genome compositions. To our knowledge, such an exceptional high proportion of different reassortant strains, encompassing all eight genome segments, have not been described before. In contrast, only one reassortant virus was prevalent during 1999-2000 even though two of the three 1998-1999 lineages were co-circulating. Reassortant viruses were isolated also in each of the other seasons. However, the proportion of H3N2 viruses with different genome compositions varied from season to season. Strains with a reassortant NA played an important role and were also detected during 2003-2004 and 2004-2005 accounting for 45% and 70% of the circulating H3N2 viruses, respectively. Moreover, different reassortment events occurring during these seasons included also the PB1, PB2 and NP genes. The results presented here emphasize that genetic reassortment is an important factor in the evolution of H3N2 viruses and highlight the need for a comprehensive analysis of influenza viruses, especially with regard to the annual vaccine composition.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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