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MBio. 2011 Aug 30;2(5). pii: e00150-11. doi: 10.1128/mBio.00150-11. Print 2011.

Why do influenza virus subtypes die out? A hypothesis.

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Department of Microbiology, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, New York, USA.


Novel pandemic influenza viruses enter the human population with some regularity and can cause disease that is severe and widespread. The emergence of novel viruses, historically, has often been coupled with the disappearance of existing seasonal virus strains. Here, we propose that the elimination of seasonal strains during virus pandemics is a process mediated, at the population level, by humoral immunity. Specifically, we suggest that infection with a novel virus strain, in people previously exposed to influenza viruses, can elicit a memory B cell response against conserved hemagglutinin stalk epitopes and/or neuraminidase epitopes. The anti-stalk and/or anti-neuraminidase antibodies then act to diminish the clinical severity of disease caused by novel influenza viruses and to eliminate seasonal virus strains.

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