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Phylogenetic and Evolutionary History of Influenza B Viruses, which Caused a Large Epidemic in 2011–2012, Taiwan

Public Library of Science
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0047179
  • Research Article
  • Biology
  • Computational Biology
  • Genomics
  • Genome Evolution
  • Evolutionary Biology
  • Evolutionary Systematics
  • Phylogenetics
  • Microbiology
  • Virology
  • Viral Evolution
  • Medicine
  • Epidemiology
  • Infectious Disease Epidemiology
  • Infectious Diseases
  • Viral Diseases
  • Influenza
  • Biology


The annual recurrence of the influenza epidemic is considered to be primarily associated with immune escape due to changes to the virus. In 2011–2012, the influenza B epidemic in Taiwan was unusually large, and influenza B was predominant for a long time. To investigate the genetic dynamics of influenza B viruses during the 2011–2012 epidemic, we analyzed the sequences of 4,386 influenza B viruses collected in Taiwan from 2004 to 2012. The data provided detailed insight into the flux patterns of multiple genotypes. We found that a re-emergent TW08-I virus, which was the major genotype and had co-circulated with the two others, TW08-II and TW08-III, from 2007 to 2009 in Taiwan, successively overtook TW08-II in March and then underwent a lineage switch in July 2011. This lineage switch was followed by the large epidemic in Taiwan. The whole-genome compositions and phylogenetic relationships of the representative viruses of various genotypes were compared to determine the viral evolutionary histories. We demonstrated that the large influenza B epidemic of 2011–2012 was caused by Yamagata lineage TW08-I viruses that were derived from TW04-II viruses in 2004–2005 through genetic drifts without detectable reassortments. The TW08-I viruses isolated in both 2011–2012 and 2007–2009 were antigenically similar, indicating that an influenza B virus have persisted for 5 years in antigenic stasis before causing a large epidemic. The results suggest that in addition to the emergence of new variants with mutations or reassortments, other factors, including the interference of multi-types or lineages of influenza viruses and the accumulation of susceptible hosts, can also affect the scale and time of an influenza B epidemic.

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