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J Med Virol. 1997 Mar;51(3):234-41.

Analysis of influenza A H3N2 strains isolated in England during 1995-1996 using polymerase chain reaction restriction.

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Enteric and Respiratory Virus Laboratory, Central Public Health Laboratory, London, United Kingdom.


A polymerase chain reaction-restriction (PCR-restriction) endonuclease assay was developed to allow rapid analysis of influenza A H3N2 viruses circulating in England during 1995-1996. Restriction endonuclease digestion with two enzymes of amplicons derived from PCR of the HA1 portion of the influenza haemagglutinin (HA) gene was able to differentiate antigenically similar influenza strains into two groups. Group I variants were similar genetically to the 1995/96 vaccine strain, A/Johannesburg/33/94, whereas the HA sequences of Group II variants were similar genetically to the reference virus A/Thessaloniki/1/95. Of the 700 England A H3N2 strains isolated between February 1995 and the end of April 1996, 384 were analysed by this method. PCR-restriction analysis of sequential influenza isolates revealed a temporal alteration in prevalence of two variants. Groups I and II variants cocirculated with equal frequency during a period of sporadic influenza activity, but following the onset of epidemic influenza activity in 1995, only Group II variants were detected. PCR- restriction analysis was found to be a rapid method for studying genetic variation which could be applied to a large number of samples and provide information about the direction of genetic drift in the HA gene of influenza virus.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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