Clin Microbiol Infect 2012; 18: 976–981
The swine-origin H1N1 influenza A virus (pH1N1(2009)) started to circulate worldwide in 2009, and cases were notified in a number of sub-Saharan African countries. However, no epidemiological data allowing estimation of the epidemic burden were available in this region, preventing comprehensive comparisons with other parts of the world. The CoPanFlu-Mali programme studied a cohort of 202 individuals living in the rural commune of Dioro (southern central Mali). Pre-pandemic and post-pandemic paired sera (sampled in 2006 and April 2010, respectively) were tested by the haemagglutination inhibition (HI) method. Different estimates of pH1N1(2009) infection during the 2009 first epidemic wave were used (increased prevalence of HI titre of ≥1/40 or ≥1/80, seroconversions) and provided convergent attack rate values (12.4–14.9%), the highest values being observed in the 0–19-year age group (16.0–18.4%). In all age groups, pre-pandemic HI titres of ≥1/40 were associated with complete absence of seroconversion; and geometric mean titres were <15 in individuals who seroconverted and >20 in others. Important variations in seroconversion rate existed among the different villages investigated. Despite limitations resulting from the size and composition of the sample analysed, this study provides strong evidence that the impact of the pH1N1(2009) first wave was more important than previously believed, and that the determinants of the epidemic spread in sub-Saharan populations were quite different from those observed in developed countries.