Eddie Holmes, Bryan Grenfell and collaborators have found that influenza genetic diversity is not as restricted as previously suggested.
Using phylogenetic analyses of whole genome sequences, they have detected multiple reassortment events among phylogenetically distinct lineages of H3N2 influenza A viruses infecting humans.
These events, in which genetically different viruses swap several genes at once, have the potential to cause sudden and significant changes to viral antigenic structure — suggesting that the evolution of human influenza A virus is likely to be more complex than depicted in standard models that just involve antigenic drift.
This analysis underscores the importance of collecting whole genome sequences from carefully sampled populations, and of understanding mechanisms and rates of viral evolution when planning disease surveillance and control measures.
Written By: Edward C. Holmes, Elodie Ghedin, Naomi Miller, Jill Taylor, Yiming Bao, Kirsten St. George, Bryan T. Grenfell, Steven L. Salzberg, Claire M. Fraser, David J. Lipman, & Jeffery K. Taubenberger
Journal: 3(9): e300
Journal Reference: 3(9): e300
Paper Id: 10.1371/journal.pbio.0030300