H1N1 influenza causes substantial seasonal illness and was the subtype of the 2009 influenza pandemic. Precise measures of antigenic distance between the vaccine and circulating virus strains help researchers design influenza vaccines with high vaccine effectiveness. We here introduce a sequence-based method to predict vaccine effectiveness in humans. Historical epidemiological data show that this sequence-based method is as predictive of vaccine effectiveness as hemagglutination inhibition assay data from ferret animal model studies. Interestingly, the expected vaccine effectiveness is greater against H1N1 than H3N2, suggesting a stronger immune response against H1N1 than H3N2. The evolution rate of hemagglutinin in H1N1 is also shown to be greater than that in H3N2, presumably due to greater immune selection pressure.
antigenic distance; antigenic drift; influenza; pepitope; vaccine effectiveness
Human influenza A viruses undergo antigenic changes with gradual accumulation of amino acid substitutions on the hemagglutinin (HA) molecule. A strong antigenic mismatch between vaccine and epidemic strains often requires the replacement of influenza vaccines worldwide. To establish a practical model enabling us to predict the future direction of the influenza virus evolution, relative distances of amino acid sequences among past epidemic strains were analyzed by multidimensional scaling (MDS). We found that human influenza viruses have evolved along a gnarled evolutionary pathway with an approximately constant curvature in the MDS-constructed 3D space. The gnarled pathway indicated that evolution on the trunk favored multiple substitutions at the same amino acid positions on HA. The constant curvature was reasonably explained by assuming that the rate of amino acid substitutions varied from one position to another according to a gamma distribution. Furthermore, we utilized the estimated parameters of the gamma distribution to predict the amino acid substitutions on HA in subsequent years. Retrospective prediction tests for 12 years from 1997 to 2009 showed that 70% of actual amino acid substitutions were correctly predicted, and that 45% of predicted amino acid substitutions have been actually observed. Although it remains unsolved how to predict the exact timing of antigenic changes, the present results suggest that our model may have the potential to recognize emerging epidemic strains.
The WHO Global Influenza Surveillance Network has routinely performed genetic and antigenic analyses of human influenza viruses to monitor influenza activity. Although these analyses provide supporting data for the selection of vaccine strains, it seems desirable to have user-friendly tools to visualize the antigenic evolution of influenza viruses for the purpose of surveillance. To meet this need, we have developed a web server, ATIVS (Analytical Tool for Influenza Virus Surveillance), for analyzing serological data of all influenza viruses and hemagglutinin sequence data of human influenza A/H3N2 viruses so as to generate antigenic maps for influenza surveillance and vaccine strain selection. Functionalities are described and examples are provided to illustrate its usefulness and performance. The ATIVS web server is available at http://influenza.nhri.org.tw/ATIVS/.
Human influenza is characterized by seasonal epidemics, caused by rapid viral adaptation to population immunity. Vaccination against influenza must be updated annually, following surveillance of newly appearing viral strains. During an influenza season, several strains may be co-circulating, which will influence their individual evolution; furthermore, selective forces acting on the strains will be mediated by the transmission dynamics in the population. Clearly, viral evolution and public health policy are strongly interconnected. Understanding population-level dynamics of coexisting viral influenza infections, would be of great benefit in designing vaccination strategies.
We use a Markov network to extend a previous homogeneous model of two co-circulating influenza viral strains by including vaccination (either prior to or during an outbreak), age structure, and heterogeneity of the contact network. We explore the effects of changes in vaccination rate, cross-immunity, and delay in appearance of the second strain, on the size and timing of infection peaks, attack rates, and disease-induced mortality rate; and compare the outcomes of the network and corresponding homogeneous models.
Pre-vaccination is more effective than vaccination during an outbreak, resulting in lower attack rates for the first strain but higher attack rates for the second strain, until a “threshold” vaccination level of ~30-40% is reached, after which attack rates due to both strains sharply dropped. A small increase in mortality was found for increasing pre-vaccination coverage below about 40%, due to increasing numbers of strain 2 infections. The amount of cross-immunity present determines whether a second wave of infection will occur. Some significant differences were found between the homogeneous and network models, including timing and height of peak infection(s).
Contact and age structure significantly influence the propagation of disease in the population. The present model explores only qualitative behaviour, based on parameters derived for homogeneous influenza models, but may be used for realistic populations through statistical estimates of inter-age contact patterns. This could have significant implications for vaccination strategies in realistic models of populations in which more than one strain is circulating.
The rapid evolution of influenza viruses presents difficulties in maintaining the optimal efficiency of vaccines. Amino acid substitutions result in antigenic drift, a process whereby antisera raised in response to one virus have reduced effectiveness against future viruses. Interestingly, while amino acid substitutions occur at a relatively constant rate, the antigenic properties of H3 move in a discontinuous, step-wise manner. It is not clear why this punctuated evolution occurs, whether this represents simply the fact that some substitutions affect these properties more than others, or if this is indicative of a changing relationship between the virus and the host. In addition, the role of changing glycosylation of the haemagglutinin in these shifts in antigenic properties is unknown. We analysed the antigenic drift of HA1 from human influenza H3 using a model of sequence change that allows for variation in selective pressure at different locations in the sequence, as well as at different parts of the phylogenetic tree. We detect significant changes in selective pressure that occur preferentially during major changes in antigenic properties. Despite the large increase in glycosylation during the past 40 years, changes in glycosylation did not correlate either with changes in antigenic properties or with significantly more rapid changes in selective pressure. The locations that undergo changes in selective pressure are largely in places undergoing adaptive evolution, in antigenic locations, and in locations or near locations undergoing substitutions that characterise the change in antigenicity of the virus. Our results suggest that the relationship of the virus to the host changes with time, with the shifts in antigenic properties representing changes in this relationship. This suggests that the virus and host immune system are evolving different methods to counter each other. While we are able to characterise the rapid increase in glycosylation of the haemagglutinin during time in human influenza H3, an increase not present in influenza in birds, this increase seems unrelated to the observed changes in antigenic properties.
H3N2-type influenza is responsible for widespread disease and significant mortality. The virus evolves rapidly, changing its antigenic properties, allowing it to escape clearance by the immune response as well as complicating the maintenance of vaccine effectiveness. Part of this evolution has been the rapid increase in glycosylation, an increase not observed either in H9 evolution in birds or in H1 evolution in humans. It has been observed that the antigenic properties change in a punctuated, discontinuous manner. This could be either because some mutations are more significant than others, or it could mean that the antigenic changes correspond to adjustments in the antagonistic relationship between virus and host. By studying the sequence evolution of the H3 haemagglutinin, we can demonstrate that the selective pressure acting on the virus protein changes with time, and that these changes are especially rapid during changes in antigenic properties. This indicates that the antigenic changes correspond to modifications in the virus–host relationship. Surprisingly, neither the changes in selective pressure nor the changes in antigenic properties correspond to changes in glycosylation.
The increasing availability of complete influenza virus genomes is deepening our understanding of influenza evolutionary dynamics and facilitating the selection of vaccine strains. However, only one complete African influenza virus sequence is available in the public domain. Here we present a complete genome analysis of 59 influenza A/H3N2 viruses isolated from humans in Uganda during the 2008 and 2009 season. Isolates were recovered from hospital-based sentinel surveillance for influenza-like illnesses and their whole genome sequenced. The viruses circulating during these two seasons clearly differed from each other phylogenetically. They showed a slow evolution away from the 2009/10 recommended vaccine strain (A/Brisbane/10/07), instead clustering with the 2010/11 recommended vaccine strain (A/Perth/16/09) in the A/Victoria/208/09 clade, as observed in other global regions. All of the isolates carried the adamantane resistance marker S31N in the M2 gene and carried several markers of enhanced transmission; as expected, none carried any marker of neuraminidase inhibitor resistance. The hemagglutinin gene of the 2009 isolates differed from that of the 2008 isolates in antigenic sites A, B, D, and to a lesser extent, C and E indicating evidence of an early phylogenetic shift from the 2008 to 2009 viruses. The internal genes of the 2009 isolates were similar to those of one 2008 isolate, A/Uganda/MUWRP-050/2008. Another 2008 isolate had a truncated PB1-F2 protein. Whole genome sequencing can enhance surveillance of future seasonal changes in the viral genome which is crucial to ensure that selected vaccine strains are protective against the strains circulating in Eastern Africa. This data provides an important baseline for this surveillance. Overall the influenza virus activity in Uganda appears to mirror that observed in other regions of the southern hemisphere.
Studies of influenza virus evolution under controlled experimental conditions can provide a better understanding of the consequences of evolutionary processes with and without immunological pressure. Characterization of evolved strains assists in the development of predictive algorithms for both the selection of subtypes represented in the seasonal influenza vaccine and the design of novel immune refocused vaccines. To obtain data on the evolution of influenza in a controlled setting, naïve and immunized Guinea pigs were infected with influenza A/Wyoming/2003 (H3N2). Virus progeny from nasal wash samples were assessed for variation in the dominant and other epitopes by sequencing the hemagglutinin (HA) gene to quantify evolutionary changes. Viral RNA from the nasal washes from infection of naïve and immune animals contained 6% and 24.5% HA variant sequences, respectively. Analysis of mutations relative to antigenic epitopes indicated that adaptive immunity played a key role in virus evolution. HA mutations in immunized animals were associated with loss of glycosylation and changes in charge and hydrophobicity in and near residues within known epitopes. Four regions of HA-1 (75–85, 125–135, 165–170, 225–230) contained residues of highest variability. These sites are adjacent to or within known epitopes and appear to play an important role in antigenic variation. Recognition of the role of these sites during evolution will lead to a better understanding of the nature of evolution which help in the prediction of future strains for selection of seasonal vaccines and the design of novel vaccines intended to stimulated broadened cross-reactive protection to conserved sites outside of dominant epitopes.
The recent emergence of a novel pandemic influenza A(H1N1) strain in humans exemplifies the rapid and unpredictable nature of influenza virus evolution and the need for effective therapeutics and vaccines to control such outbreaks. However, resistance to antivirals can be a formidable problem as evidenced by the currently widespread oseltamivir- and adamantane-resistant seasonal influenza A viruses (IFV). Additional antiviral approaches with novel mechanisms of action are needed to combat novel and resistant influenza strains. DAS181 (Fludase™) is a sialidase fusion protein in early clinical development with in vitro and in vivo preclinical activity against a variety of seasonal influenza strains and highly pathogenic avian influenza strains (A/H5N1). Here, we use in vitro, ex vivo, and in vivo models to evaluate the activity of DAS181 against several pandemic influenza A(H1N1) viruses.
Methods and Findings
The activity of DAS181 against several pandemic influenza A(H1N1) virus isolates was examined in MDCK cells, differentiated primary human respiratory tract culture, ex-vivo human bronchi tissue and mice. DAS181 efficiently inhibited viral replication in each of these models and against all tested pandemic influenza A(H1N1) strains. DAS181 treatment also protected mice from pandemic influenza A(H1N1)-induced pathogenesis. Furthermore, DAS181 antiviral activity against pandemic influenza A(H1N1) strains was comparable to that observed against seasonal influenza virus including the H274Y oseltamivir-resistant influenza virus.
The sialidase fusion protein DAS181 exhibits potent inhibitory activity against pandemic influenza A(H1N1) viruses. As inhibition was also observed with oseltamivir-resistant IFV (H274Y), DAS181 may be active against the antigenically novel pandemic influenza A(H1N1) virus should it acquire the H274Y mutation. Based on these and previous results demonstrating DAS181 broad-spectrum anti-IFV activity, DAS181 represents a potential therapeutic agent for prevention and treatment of infections by both emerging and seasonal strains of IFV.
The unfolding of pandemic influenza A(H1N1) for Fall 2009 in the Northern Hemisphere is still uncertain. Plans for vaccination campaigns and vaccine trials are underway, with the first batches expected to be available early October. Several studies point to the possibility of an anticipated pandemic peak that could undermine the effectiveness of vaccination strategies. Here, we use a structured global epidemic and mobility metapopulation model to assess the effectiveness of massive vaccination campaigns for the Fall/Winter 2009. Mitigation effects are explored depending on the interplay between the predicted pandemic evolution and the expected delivery of vaccines. The model is calibrated using recent estimates on the transmissibility of the new A(H1N1) influenza. Results show that if additional intervention strategies were not used to delay the time of pandemic peak, vaccination may not be able to considerably reduce the cumulative number of cases, even when the mass vaccination campaign is started as early as mid-October. Prioritized vaccination would be crucial in slowing down the pandemic evolution and reducing its burden.
In order to control the H9N2 subtype low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI), an inactivated vaccine has been used in Korea since 2007. The Korean veterinary authority permitted the use of a single H9N2 LPAI vaccine strain to simplify the evolution of the circulating virus due to the immune pressure caused by the vaccine use. It is therefore important to determine the suitability of the vaccine strain in the final inactivated oil emulsion LPAI vaccine. In this study, we applied molecular rather than biological methods to verify the suitability of the vaccine strain used in commercial vaccines and successfully identified the strain by comparing the nucleotide sequences of the hemagglutinin and neuraminidase genes with that of the permitted Korean LPAI vaccine strain. It is thought that the method used in this study might be successfully applied to other viral genes of the LPAI vaccine strain and perhaps to other veterinary oil emulsion vaccines.
H9N2 avian influenza; identification of vaccine strain; oil emulsion vaccine
The persistent evolution of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) highlights the need for novel vaccination techniques that can quickly and effectively respond to emerging viral threats. We evaluated the use of optimized consensus influenza antigens to provide broad protection against divergent strains of H5N1 influenza in three animal models of mice, ferrets, and non-human primates. We also evaluated the use of in vivo electroporation to deliver these vaccines to overcome the immunogenicity barrier encountered in larger animal models of vaccination.
Methods and Findings
Mice, ferrets and non-human primates were immunized with consensus plasmids expressing H5 hemagglutinin (pH5HA), N1 neuraminidase (pN1NA), and nucleoprotein antigen (pNP). Dramatic IFN-γ-based cellular immune responses to both H5 and NP, largely dependent upon CD8+ T cells were seen in mice. Hemaggutination inhibition titers classically associated with protection (>1:40) were seen in all species. Responses in both ferrets and macaques demonstrate the ability of synthetic consensus antigens to induce antibodies capable of inhibiting divergent strains of the H5N1 subtype, and studies in the mouse and ferret demonstrate the ability of synthetic consensus vaccines to induce protection even in the absence of such neutralizing antibodies. After challenge, protection from morbidity and mortality was seen in mice and ferrets, with significant reductions in viral shedding and disease progression seen in vaccinated animals.
By combining several consensus influenza antigens with in vivo electroporation, we demonstrate that these antigens induce both protective cellular and humoral immune responses in mice, ferrets and non-human primates. We also demonstrate the ability of these antigens to protect from both morbidity and mortality in a ferret model of HPAI, in both the presence and absence of neutralizing antibody, which will be critical in responding to the antigenic drift that will likely occur before these viruses cross the species barrier to humans.
Public health administrators do not have effective models to predict excess influenza-associated mortality and monitor viral changes associated with it. This study evaluated the effect of matching/mismatching vaccine strains, type/subtype pattern changes in Taiwan's influenza viruses, and the impact of post-SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) public health efforts on excess influenza-associated mortalities among the elderly. A negative binomial model was developed to estimate Taiwan's monthly influenza-associated mortality among the elderly. We calculated three winter and annual excess influenza-associated mortalities [pneumonia and influenza (P&I), respiratory and circulatory, and all-cause] from the 1999–2000 through the 2006–2007 influenza seasons. Obtaining influenza virus sequences from the months/years in which death from P&I was excessive, we investigated molecular variation in vaccine-mismatched influenza viruses by comparing hemagglutinin 1 (HA1) of the circulating and vaccine strains. We found that the higher the isolation rate of A (H3N2) and vaccine-mismatched influenza viruses, the greater the monthly P&I mortality. However, this significant positive association became negative for higher matching of A (H3N2) and public health efforts with post-SARS effect. Mean excess P&I mortality for winters was significantly higher before 2003 than after that year [mean ± S.D.: 1.44±1.35 vs. 0.35±1.13, p = 0.04]. Further analysis revealed that vaccine-matched circulating influenza A viruses were significantly associated with lower excess P&I mortality during post-SARS winters (i.e., 2005–2007) than during pre-SARS winters [0.03±0.06 vs. 1.57±1.27, p = 0.01]. Stratification of these vaccine-matching and post-SARS effect showed substantial trends toward lower elderly excess P&I mortalities in winters with either mismatching vaccines during the post-SARS period or matching vaccines during the pre-SARS period. Importantly, all three excess mortalities were at their highest in May, 2003, when inter-hospital nosocomial infections were peaking. Furthermore, vaccine-mismatched H3N2 viruses circulating in the years with high excess P&I mortality exhibited both a lower amino acid identity percentage of HA1 between vaccine and circulating strains and a higher numbers of variations at epitope B. Our model can help future decision makers to estimate excess P&I mortality effectively, select and test virus strains for antigenic variation, and evaluate public health strategy effectiveness.
The influenza A(H1N1)2009 virus has been the dominant type of influenza A virus in Finland during the 2009–2010 and 2010–2011 epidemic seasons. We analyzed the antigenic characteristics of several influenza A(H1N1)2009 viruses isolated during the two influenza seasons by analyzing the amino acid sequences of the hemagglutinin (HA), modeling the amino acid changes in the HA structure and measuring antibody responses induced by natural infection or influenza vaccination.
Based on the HA sequences of influenza A(H1N1)2009 viruses we selected 13 different strains for antigenic characterization. The analysis included the vaccine virus, A/California/07/2009 and multiple California-like isolates from 2009–2010 and 2010–2011 epidemic seasons. These viruses had two to five amino acid changes in their HA1 molecule. The mutation(s) were located in antigenic sites Sa, Ca1, Ca2 and Cb region. Analysis of the antibody levels by hemagglutination inhibition test (HI) indicated that vaccinated individuals and people who had experienced a natural influenza A(H1N1)2009 virus infection showed good immune responses against the vaccine virus and most of the wild-type viruses. However, one to two amino acid changes in the antigenic site Sa dramatically affected the ability of antibodies to recognize these viruses. In contrast, the tested viruses were indistinguishable in regard to antibody recognition by the sera from elderly individuals who had been exposed to the Spanish influenza or its descendant viruses during the early 20th century.
According to our results, one to two amino acid changes (N125D and/or N156K) in the major antigenic sites of the hemagglutinin of influenza A(H1N1)2009 virus may lead to significant reduction in the ability of patient and vaccine sera to recognize A(H1N1)2009 viruses.
The amino acid substitution model is the core component of many protein analysis systems such as sequence similarity search, sequence alignment, and phylogenetic inference. Although several general amino acid substitution models have been estimated from large and diverse protein databases, they remain inappropriate for analyzing specific species, e.g., viruses. Emerging epidemics of influenza viruses raise the need for comprehensive studies of these dangerous viruses. We propose an influenza-specific amino acid substitution model to enhance the understanding of the evolution of influenza viruses.
A maximum likelihood approach was applied to estimate an amino acid substitution model (FLU) from ~113, 000 influenza protein sequences, consisting of ~20 million residues. FLU outperforms 14 widely used models in constructing maximum likelihood phylogenetic trees for the majority of influenza protein alignments. On average, FLU gains ~42 log likelihood points with an alignment of 300 sites. Moreover, topologies of trees constructed using FLU and other models are frequently different. FLU does indeed have an impact on likelihood improvement as well as tree topologies. It was implemented in PhyML and can be downloaded from ftp://ftp.sanger.ac.uk/pub/1000genomes/lsq/FLU or included in PhyML 3.0 server at http://www.atgc-montpellier.fr/phyml/.
FLU should be useful for any influenza protein analysis system which requires an accurate description of amino acid substitutions.
An outbreak of avian influenza (AI) caused by a low-pathogenic H5N2 type A influenza virus began in Mexico in 1993 and several highly pathogenic strains of the virus emerged in 1994-1995. The highly pathogenic virus has not been reported since 1996, but the low-pathogenic virus remains endemic in Mexico and has spread to two adjacent countries, Guatemala and El Salvador. Measures implemented to control the outbreak and eradicate the virus in Mexico have included a widespread vaccination program in effect since 1995. Because this is the first case of long-term use of AI vaccines in poultry, the Mexican lineage virus presented us with a unique opportunity to examine the evolution of type A influenza virus circulating in poultry populations where there was elevated herd immunity due to maternal and active immunity. We analyzed the coding sequence of the HA1 subunit and the NS gene of 52 Mexican lineage viruses that were isolated between 1993 and 2002. Phylogenetic analysis indicated the presence of multiple sublineages of Mexican lineage isolates at the time vaccine was introduced. Further, most of the viruses isolated after the introduction of vaccine belonged to sublineages separate from the vaccine's sublineage. Serologic analysis using hemagglutination inhibition and virus neutralization tests showed major antigenic differences among isolates belonging to the different sublineages. Vaccine protection studies further confirmed the in vitro serologic results indicating that commercial vaccine was not able to prevent virus shedding when chickens were challenged with antigenically different isolates. These findings indicate that multilineage antigenic drift, which has not been observed in AI virus, is occurring in the Mexican lineage AI viruses and the persistence of the virus in the field is likely aided by its large antigenic difference from the vaccine strain.
The evolution of haemagglutinin (HA), an important influenza virus antigen, has been the subject of intensive research for more than two decades. Many characteristics of HA's sequence evolution are captured by standard Markov chain substitution models. Such models assign equal fitness to all accessible amino acids at a site. We show, however, that such models strongly underestimate the number of homoplastic amino acid substitutions during the course of HA's evolution, i.e. substitutions that repeatedly give rise to the same amino acid at a site. We develop statistics to detect individual homoplastic events and find that they preferentially occur at positively selected epitopic sites. Our results suggest that the evolution of the influenza A HA, including evolution by positive selection, is strongly affected by the long-term site-specific preferences for individual amino acids.
directional selection; dN/dS; haemagglutinin; homoplasy; influenza A
The rapid evolution, genetic diversity, broad host range, and increasing human infection with avian influenza A (H5N1) viruses highlight the need for an efficacious cross-clade vaccine. Using the ferret model, we compared induction of cross-reactive immunity and protective efficacy of three single-clade H5N1 vaccines and a novel multiple-clade H5N1 vaccine, with and without MF59 adjuvant. Reverse genetics (rg) was used to generate vaccine viruses containing the hemagglutinin (HA) and neuraminidase genes of wild-type H5N1 viruses. Ferrets received 2 doses of inactivated whole-virus vaccine separated by 3 weeks. Single-clade vaccines (7.5 μg HA per dose) included rg-A/Vietnam/1203/04 (clade 1), rg-A/Hong Kong/213/03 (clade 1), and rg-A/Japanese white eye/Hong Kong/1038/06 (clade 2.3). The multiple-clade vaccine contained 3.75 μg HA per dose of each single-clade vaccine and of rg-A/Whooper Swan/Mongolia/244/05 (clade 2.2). Two doses of vaccine were required to substantially increase anti-HA and virus neutralizing antibody titers to H5N1 viruses. MF59 adjuvant enhanced induction of clade-specific and cross-clade serum antibody responses, reduced frequency of infection (as determined by upper respiratory tract virus shedding and seroconversion data), and eliminated disease signs. The rg-A/Hong Kong/213/03 vaccine induced the highest antibody titers to homologous and heterologous H5N1 viruses, while rg-A/Japanese white eye/Hong Kong/1038/06 vaccine induced the lowest. The multiple-clade vaccine was broadly immunogenic against clade 1 and 2 viruses. The rg-A/Vietnam/1203/04 vaccine (the currently stockpiled H5N1 vaccine) most effectively reduced upper respiratory tract virus shedding after challenge with clade 1 and 2 viruses. Importantly, all vaccines protected against lethal challenge with A/Vietnam/1203/04 virus and provided cross-clade protection.
H5N1 influenza; Vaccine; MF59 Adjuvant
Antigenic drift in the influenza A virus hemagglutinin (HA) is responsible for seasonal reformulation of influenza vaccines. Here, we address an important and largely overlooked issue in antigenic drift: how does the number and location of glycosylation sites affect HA evolution in man? We analyzed the glycosylation status of all full-length H1 subtype HA sequences available in the NCBI influenza database. We devised the “flow index” (FI), a simple algorithm that calculates the tendency for viruses to gain or lose consensus glycosylation sites. The FI predicts the predominance of glycosylation states among existing strains. Our analyses show that while the number of glycosylation sites in the HA globular domain does not influence the overall magnitude of variation in defined antigenic regions, variation focuses on those regions unshielded by glycosylation. This supports the conclusion that glycosylation generally shields HA from antibody-mediated neutralization, and implies that fitness costs in accommodating oligosaccharides limit virus escape via HA hyperglycosylation.
Influenza A virus is highly susceptible to neutralizing antibodies specific for the viral hemagglutinin glycoprotein (HA), and is easily controlled by standard vaccines. Influenza A virus remains an important human pathogen, however, due to its ability to rapidly evade antibody responses. This process, termed antigenic drift, is due to the accumulation of amino acid substitutions that modify HA antigenic sites recognized by neutralizing antibodies. In this study, we perform bioinformatic analysis on thousands of influenza A virus isolates to better understand the influence of N-linked glycosylation on antigenic drift. HA from human IAV isolates can accommodate up to 6 oligosaccharides in its globular domain. We show that for H1, H2, and to a somewhat less extent H3, HAs, the number of glycosylation sites in the globular domain does not greatly modify the total degree of variation in antigenic sites, but rather focuses variation on sites whose access to antibodies is unaffected by glycosylation. Our findings imply that glycosylation protects HA from antibody neutralization, but functional impairment limits the number of oligosaccharides that HA can accommodate.
Determining the evolutionary basis of cross-species transmission and immune evasion is key to understanding the mechanisms that control the emergence of either new viruses or novel antigenic variants with pandemic potential. The hemagglutinin glycoprotein of influenza A viruses is a critical host range determinant and a major target of neutralizing antibodies. Equine influenza virus (EIV) is a significant pathogen of the horse that causes periodical outbreaks of disease even in populations with high vaccination coverage. EIV has also jumped the species barrier and emerged as a novel respiratory pathogen in dogs, canine influenza virus. We studied the dynamics of equine influenza virus evolution in horses at the intrahost level and how this evolutionary process is affected by interhost transmission in a natural setting. To this end, we performed clonal sequencing of the hemagglutinin 1 gene derived from individual animals at different times postinfection. Our results show that despite the population consensus sequence remaining invariant, genetically distinct subpopulations persist during the course of infection and are also transmitted, with some variants likely to change antigenicity. We also detected a natural case of mixed infection in an animal infected during an outbreak of equine influenza, raising the possibility of reassortment between different strains of virus. In sum, our data suggest that transmission bottlenecks may not be as narrow as originally perceived and that the genetic diversity required to adapt to new host species may be partially present in the donor host and potentially transmitted to the recipient host.
The nature of influenza virus to randomly mutate and evolve into new types with diverse antigenic determinants is an important challenge in the control of influenza infection. Particularly, variations within the amino acid sequences of major neutralizing epitopes of influenza virus hemagglutinin (HA) hindered the development of universal vaccines against H5N1 lineages. Based on distribution analyses of the identified major neutralizing epitopes of hemagglutinin, we selected three vaccine strains that cover the entire variants in the neutralizing epitopes among the H5N1 lineages. HA proteins of selected vaccine strains were expressed on the baculovirus surface (BacHA), and the preclinical efficacy of the vaccine formulations was evaluated in a mouse model. The combination of three selected vaccine strains could effectively neutralize viruses from clades 1, 2.1, 2.2, 4, 7, and 8 of influenza H5N1 viruses. In contrast, a vaccine formulation containing only adjuvanted monovalent BacHA (mono-BacHA) or a single strain of inactivated whole viral vaccine was able to neutralize only clade 1 (homologous), clade 2.1, and clade 8.0 viruses. Also, the trivalent BacHA vaccine was able to protect 100% of the mice against challenge with three different clades (clade 1.0, clade 2.1, and clade 7.0) of H5N1 strains compared to mono-BacHA or inactivated whole viral vaccine. The present findings provide a rationale for the development of a universal vaccine against H5N1 lineages. Furthermore, baculoviruses displaying HA will serve as an ideal choice for a vaccine in prepandemic or pandemic situations and expedite vaccine technology without the requirement of high-level-biocontainment facilities or tedious protein purification processes.
To determine how much should be invested each year to encourage and operationalize the administration of influenza vaccine to children before November and how late the vaccine should be offered each year.
Monte Carlo decision analytic computer simulation models.
The children's influenza vaccination timing model quantified the incremental economic value of vaccinating a child earlier in the influenza season and the incremental cost of delaying vaccination. The children's monthly influenza vaccination decision model evaluated the cost-effectiveness of vaccinating versus not vaccinating for every month of the influenza season.
Getting children vaccinated by the end of October rather than when they are currently getting vaccinated could save society between $6.4 million and $9.2 million plus 653 and 926 quality-adjusted life-years (QALYs) and third-party payers between $4.1 million and $6.1 million plus 647 to 942 QALYs each year. Decision makers may want to continue offering influenza vaccination to children at least through the end of December. Vaccinating with trivalent inactivated virus vaccine was more cost-effective than vaccinating with live attenuated influenza vaccine for every month.
Policymakers could invest up to $6 million to $9 million a year to get children vaccinated in September or October without expending any net costs.
Avian influenza virus H9N2 is a panzootic pathogen that affects poultry causing mild to moderate respiratory distress but has been associated with high morbidity and considerable mortality. Interspecies transmission of H9N2 from avian species to mammalian hosts does occur. The virus possesses human virus-like receptor specificity and it can infect humans producing flu-like illness.
Recently, mild influenza like symptoms were detected in H5N1 vaccinated flocks. Influenza A subtype H9N2 was isolated from the infected flock. The virus evolution was investigated by sequencing the viral genes to screen the possible virus recombination. The viral amino acid sequences from the isolated H9N2 strains were compared to other related sequences from the flu data base that were used to assess the robustness of the mutation trend. Changes in the species-associated amino acid residues or those that enabled virulence to mammals were allocated.
Phylogenetic analyses of haemagglutinin and neuraminidase genes showed that the recently isolated Egyptian strain belonged to the H9N2 sub-lineage that prevails in Israel. The six internal segments of the isolated virus were found to be derived from the same sub-lineage with no new evidence of reassortment. The results demonstrated conserved genetic and biological constitution of H9N2 viruses in the Middle East. The recently isolated H9N2 virus from chicken in Egypt possessed amino acids that could enable the virus to replicate in mammals and caused severe disease in domestic chickens.
The study highlights the importance of continuous monitoring of the mutations evolved in avian influenza viruses and its impact on virulence to avian species in addition to its importance in the emergence of new strains with the capacity to be a pandemic candidate.
The ectodomain of matrix protein 2 (M2e) of influenza A virus is a rationale target antigen candidate for the development of a universal vaccine against influenza as M2e undergoes little sequence variation amongst human influenza A strains. Vaccine-induced M2e-specific antibodies (Abs) have been shown to display significant cross-protective activity in animal models. M2e-based vaccine constructs have been shown to be more protective when administered by the intranasal (i.n.) route than after parenteral injection. However, i.n. administration of vaccines poses rare but serious safety issues associated with retrograde passage of inhaled antigens and adjuvants through the olfactory epithelium. In this study, we examined whether the sublingual (s.l.) route could serve as a safe and effective alternative mucosal delivery route for administering a prototype M2e-based vaccine. The mechanism whereby s.l. immunization with M2e vaccine candidate induces broad protection against infection with different influenza virus subtypes was explored.
Methods and Results
A recombinant M2 protein with three tandem copies of the M2e (3M2eC) was expressed in Escherichia coli. Parenteral immunizations of mice with 3M2eC induced high levels of M2e-specific serum Abs but failed to provide complete protection against lethal challenge with influenza virus. In contrast, s.l. immunization with 3M2eC was superior for inducing protection in mice. In the latter animals, protection was associated with specific Ab responses in the lungs.
The results demonstrate that s.l. immunization with 3M2eC vaccine induced airway mucosal immune responses along with broad cross-protective immunity to influenza. These findings may contribute to the understanding of the M2-based vaccine approach to control epidemic and pandemic influenza infections.
The influenza virus is an important human pathogen, with a rapid rate of evolution in the human population. The rate of homologous recombination within genes of influenza is essentially zero. As such, where two alleles within the same gene are in linkage disequilibrium, interference between alleles will occur, whereby selection acting upon one allele has an influence upon the frequency of the other. We here measured the relative importance of selection and interference effects upon the evolution of influenza. We considered time-resolved allele frequency data from the global evolutionary history of the haemagglutinin gene of human influenza A/H3N2, conducting an in-depth analysis of sequences collected since 1996. Using a model that accounts for selection-caused interference between alleles in linkage disequilibrium, we estimated the inherent selective benefit of individual polymorphisms in the viral population. These inherent selection coefficients were in turn used to calculate the total selective effect of interference acting upon each polymorphism, considering the effect of the initial background upon which a mutation arose, and the subsequent effect of interference from other alleles that were under selection. Viewing events in retrospect, we estimated the influence of each of these components in determining whether a mutant allele eventually fixed or died in the global viral population. Our inherent selection coefficients, when combined across different regions of the protein, were consistent with previous measurements of dN/dS for the same system. Alleles going on to fix in the global population tended to be under more positive selection, to arise on more beneficial backgrounds, and to avoid strong negative interference from other alleles under selection. However, on average, the fate of a polymorphism was determined more by the combined influence of interference effects than by its inherent selection coefficient.
Success in life is the product of many factors. Inherent ability often underlies great achievement. But other factors may play their part. The circumstances a child is born into may help or hinder his or her progress. Later events also have their effect; a life may be influenced by a lucky break, or an unforeseen disaster. In this work, we examine the factors underlying success for mutations in the HA gene of human influenza virus A/H3N2, defining success as the attainment of a high frequency in the global population. We examined the history of the gene from 1968 until 2010. For each observed mutation, a mathematical model was used to estimate the inherent benefit or disadvantage it conferred to the virus. We calculated the advantageousness or otherwise of the background upon which it arose, and the subsequent effect of interference from other mutations under selection. We found that successful mutations tended to have an advantageous background, and were subsequently fortunate in avoiding negative events throughout their lifetime. Beneficial mutations were more likely to be successful. But a mutation's chances of success were influenced more by circumstances of birth and subsequent events, than by its inherent effect on the virus.
Human Influenza A virus undergoes recurrent changes in the hemagglutinin (HA) surface protein, primarily involved in the human antibody recognition. Relevant antigenic changes, enabling the virus to evade host immune response, have been recognized to occur in parallel to multiple mutations at antigenic sites in HA. Yet, the role of correlated mutations (epistasis) in driving the molecular evolution of the virus still represents a challenging puzzle. Further, though circulation at a global geographic level is key for the survival of Influenza A, its role in shaping the viral phylodynamics remains largely unexplored. Here we show, through a sequence based epidemiological model, that epistatic effects between amino acids substitutions, coupled with a reservoir that mimics worldwide circulating viruses, are key determinants that drive human Influenza A evolution. Our approach explains all the up-to-date observations characterizing the evolution of H3N2 subtype, including phylogenetic properties, nucleotide fixation patterns, and composition of antigenic clusters.