In Flew Influenza

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Science  19 Sep 2003:
Vol. 301, Issue 5640, pp. 1631
DOI: 10.1126/science.301.5640.1631d

Population-level antibody responses to the hemaglutinin and neuraminidase antigens of the influenza virus are watched closely for signs that gradual antigenic drift is giving way to sudden antigenic shift that presages a pandemic. By contrast, Gog et al. have chosen to model the population-level dynamics of cellular immunity to influenza A. This virus generates cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) escape mutants by point mutation, particularly in CTL epitopes of the nucleoprotein gene. Theoretically, the benefits of HLA escape mutation are small for the virus, yet mutations spread to fixation very quickly. Modeling of entire annual cycles of the virus suggests that the answer lies in the advantage the mutant gains in being able to persist undetected by immune responses during the summer, ready to found a new epidemic as the next winter flu season approaches. — CA

Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 10.1073/pnas.1833677100 (2003).

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