• Antigenicity;
  • epidemiology;
  • influenza virus;
  • phylogenetic evolution;
  • reassortment;
  • Taiwan

Clin Microbiol Infect 2011; 17: 214–222


The severity of an influenza epidemic season may be influenced not only by variability in the surface glycoproteins, but also by differences in the internal proteins of circulating influenza viruses. To better understand viral antigenic evolution, all eight gene segments from 44 human H3N2 epidemic strains isolated during 2004–2008 in Taiwan were analyzed to provide a profile of protein variability. Comparison of the evolutionary profiles of the HA, NA and PB2 genes of influenza A (H3N2) viruses indicated that they were derived from a group of H3N2 isolates first seen in 2004. However, the PA, M and PB1 genes were derived from a different group of H3N2 isolates from 2004. Tree topology revealed the NP and NS genes could each be segregated into two groups similar to those for the polymerase genes. In addition, new genetic variants occurred during the non-epidemic period and become the dominant strain after one or two seasons. Comparison of evolutionary patterns in consecutive years is necessary to correlate viral genetic changes with antigenic changes as multiple lineages co-circulate.