Charting the life-course epidemiology of influenza

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Science  21 Nov 2014:
Vol. 346, Issue 6212, pp. 919-920
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa0613

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Interaction between the human immune system and influenza virus is predominantly driven by antigenic drift. In this process, ongoing mutation of the virus slowly changes its antigenic signature, eventually allowing the virus to infect people with immunity to earlier versions of the virus. Along with antigenic shifts, through which extreme changes in influenza A lead to pandemics (most often when genes from two or more different strains of influenza reassort to form a new subtype), antigenic drift is the dominant driver of influenza epidemiology. One of the most important results of antigenic drift is the need to periodically reformulate and annually administer influenza vaccine. On page 996 of this issue, Fonville et al. (1) use a technique called “antibody landscapes” to characterize antibody protection from the full spectrum of influenza strains, illuminating the interaction between new influenza exposures and past immunity.