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PLoS Curr. 2010 Dec 3;2:RRN1200. doi: 10.1371/currents.RRN1200.

Projection of seasonal influenza severity from sequence and serological data.

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1
National Center for Biotechnology Information, National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20894, USA; Fogarty International Center, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, USA and National Center for Biotechnology Information, National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.

Abstract

Severity of seasonal influenza A epidemics is related to the antigenic novelty of the predominant viral strains circulating each year. Support for a strong correlation between epidemic severity and antigenic drift comes from infectious challenge experiments on vaccinated animals and human volunteers, field studies of vaccine efficacy, prospective studies of subjects with laboratory-confirmed prior infections, and analysis of the connection between drift and severity from surveillance data. We show that, given data on the antigenic and sequence novelty of the hemagglutinin protein of clinical isolates of H3N2 virus from a season along with the corresponding data from prior seasons, we can accurately predict the influenza severity for that season. This model therefore provides a framework for making projections of the severity of the upcoming season using assumptions based on viral isolates collected in the current season. Our results based on two independent data sets from the US and Hong Kong suggest that seasonal severity is largely determined by the novelty of the hemagglutinin protein although other factors, including mutations in other influenza genes, co-circulating pathogens and weather conditions, might also play a role. These results should be helpful for the control of seasonal influenza and have implications for improvement of influenza surveillance.

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