After the influenza H1N1 pandemic of 2009, the seasonal A/Brisbane/59/2007 strain was replaced by the A/California/07/2009 strain for the influenza virus vaccine composition. After several seasons with no indications on the occurrence of antigenic drift, A/Michigan/45/2015 was chosen as the H1N1 vaccine strain for season 2017/2018. Since the immune response to influenza is shaped by the history of exposure to antigenically similar strains, the potential cross-protection between seasonal human influenza vaccine strains and the emerging pandemic strains was investigated. Human serum samples were tested by haemagglutination inhibition and single radial haemolysis assays against A/Brisbane/59/2007, A/California/07/2009, and A/Michigan/45/2015 strains. Strong cross-reactions between A/California/07/2009 and A/Michigan/45/2015 strains were observed in 2009/2010, most likely induced by the start of the 2009 pandemic, and the subsequent post-pandemic seasons from 2010/2011 onwards when A/California/07/2009 becomes the predominant strain. In 2014/2015 season, population immunity against A/California/07/2009 and A/Michigan/45/2015 strains increased again, associated with strong cross-reactions. While haemagglutination inhibition assay has a higher sensitivity for detection of new seasonal drift, the single radial haemolysis assay is an excellent tool to determine the presence of pre-existing immunity, allowing a potential prediction on the booster potential of influenza vaccines against newly emerging drifted strains.
influenza virus; H1N1; immunity; antigenic drift
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