Global circulation patterns of seasonal influenza viruses vary with antigenic drift

Bedford T, Riley S, Barr I, Broor S, Chadha M, Cox N, Daniels R, Gunasekaran C, Hurt A, Kelso A, Klimov A, Lewis N, Li X, McCauley J, Odagiri T, Potdar V, Rambaut A, Shu Y, Skepner E, Smith D, Suchard MA, Tashiro M, Wang D, Xu X, Lemey P & Russell C

(2015) Nature 523, 217-220.

Understanding the spatio-temporal patterns of emergence and circulation of new human seasonal influenza virus variants is a key scientific and public health challenge. The global circulation patterns of influenza A/H3N2 viruses are well-characterized1-7 but the patterns of A/H1N1 and B viruses have remained largely unexplored. Here, based on analyses of 9,604 hemagglutinin sequences of human seasonal influenza viruses from 2000-2012, we show that the global circulation patterns of A/H1N1 (up to 2009), B/Victoria, and B/Yamagata viruses differ substantially from those of A/H3N2 viruses. While genetic variants of A/H3N2 viruses did not persist locally between epidemics and were reseeded from East and Southeast (E-SE) Asia, genetic variants of A/H1N1 and B viruses persisted across multiple seasons and exhibited complex global dynamics with E-SE Asia playing a limited role in disseminating new variants. The less frequent global movement of influenza A/H1N1 and B viruses coincided with slower rates of antigenic evolution, lower ages of infection, and smaller less frequent epidemics compared to A/H3N2 viruses. Detailed epidemic models support differences in age of infection, combined with the less frequent travel of children, as likely drivers of the differences in the patterns of global circulation, suggesting a complex interaction between virus evolution, epidemiology and human behavior.

Andrew Rambaut, 2007