Virological Surveillance of Influenza in the eight epidemic seasons after the 2009 pandemic in Emilia-Romagna (Northern Italy)

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Paola Affanni https://orcid.org/0000-0002-7329-9248
Maria Eugenia Colucci https://orcid.org/0000-0003-4971-594X
Maria Teresa Bracchi
Emanuela Capobianco
Roberta Zoni https://orcid.org/0000-0001-8154-0719
Luca Caruso
Maria Rita Castrucci
Simona Puzelli
Angelo Cantarelli
Licia Veronesi https://orcid.org/0000-0002-5399-2934

Keywords

Influenza virus, virological surveillance, antigenic characterisation, B lineage, vaccine virus strain, mismatch

Abstract

Background and aim of the work: Influenza virological surveillance is essential for monitoring the evolution of influenza viruses (IVs) as well as for annual updating of the vaccine composition. The aim of this study is to analyse IVs circulation in Emilia-Romagna during the eight epidemic seasons after the 2009 pandemic and to evaluate their match with seasonal vaccine strains. Methods: A total of 7882 respiratory specimens from patients with influenza-like illness (ILI), were collected by regional sentinel practitioners and hospital physicians. Viral investigations were conducted by rRT-PCR assay. Genetic characterization was performed for a spatial-temporal representative number of influenza laboratory-confirmed specimens. Results: Influenza-positive samples per season ranged between 28.9% (2013-2014) and 66.8% (2012-2013). Co-circulation of IVs type A and type B was observed in all seasons, although with a different intensity. In all seasons, the highest number of positive samples was recorded in younger patients aged 5-14 years with relative frequencies ranging from 40% in the 2013-2014 season and 78% in the 2012-2013 season. Since the 2009 pandemic, A/H1N1pdm09 IVs circulating were closely related to the vaccine strain A/California/7/2009. Antigenic mismatch between vaccine strain and A/H3N2 IVs was observed in the 2011-2012 and 2014-2015 seasons. During 2015-2016, 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 seasons a complete or nearly complete mismatch between the predominant influenza B lineage of IVs type B circulating and vaccine B lineage occurred. Conclusions: This analysis confirms the importance of the virological surveillance and highlights the need of a continuous monitoring of IVs circulation, to improve the most appropriate vaccination strategies. (www.actabiomedica.it)

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