Seasonal influenza circulation patterns and projections for September 2019 to September 2020

Bedford T, Huddleston J, Potter B, Neher RA. 2019. bioRxiv: 780627.

Abstract

This report details current seasonal influenza circulation patterns as of August 2019 and makes projections up to September 2020 to coincide with selection of the 2020 Southern Hemisphere vaccine strain. This is not meant as a comprehensive report, but is instead intended as particular observations that we've made that may be of relevance. Please also note that observed patterns reflect the GISAID database and may not be entirely representative of underlying dynamics. All analyses are based on the nextflu/nextstrain pipeline with continual updates posted to nextstrain.org/flu.

A/H3N2: A/H3N2 viruses continue to show substantial diversity in HA sequences with a deep split between 3c3.A and 3c2.A1b viruses. The most notable recent developments are the rapid rise of clade A1b/137F - a subclade of A1b/135K - in China and Bangladesh and clade A1b/197R - a subclade of A1b/131K - which dominates the ongoing season in Australia. Our models predict that A1b/137F and A1b/197R will be the dominant clades next year with A1b/197R accounting for most circulation. There is, however, large uncertainty in the true extent of A1b/137F circulation.

A/H1N1pdm: The S183P substitution has risen to near fixation. The most successful subclade carrying this mutation is 183P-5 which has essentially replaced competing variants. A variant with substitutions 129D/185I is at 60% prevalence globally, while a second variant with substitution 130N is at 50% in North America and ~10% elsewhere. Substitutions at site 156 to D or K have arisen sporadically and result in loss of recognition by antisera raised against viruses with asparagine at position 156. Despite the large antigenic effect, viruses with mutations at site 156 don't seem to spread. Beyond variants at site 156, little to no antigenic evolution is evident in assays with ferret antisera.

B/Vic: Antigenically drifted deletion variants at HA1 sites 162, 163 and 164 are now dominating global circulation and have all but taken over. The double deletion variant V1A.1 had previously been circulating at high frequency in the Americas. However, over the course of 2009, the triple deletion variant V1A.3 has increased in frequency globally and is now dominating in all geographic regions. Importantly, V1A.1 and V1A.3 variants appear antigenically distinct by HI assays with 4-8 fold reductions in log2 titer in both directions.

B/Yam: B/Yam has not circulated in large numbers since the Northern Hemisphere season 2017/2018 and displays relatively little amino acid variation in HA or antigenic diversity. Amino acid variants at sites 229 and 232 have begun to circulate and population is now split between 229D/232D, 229N/232D and 229D/232N variants. These variants show little sign of antigenic difference in HI assays.