Genesis and pathogenesis of the 1918 pandemic H1N1 influenza a virus

Michael Worobey, Guan Zhu Han, Andrew Rambaut

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

89 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The source, timing, and geographical origin of the 1918-1920 pandemic influenza A virus have remained tenaciously obscure for nearly a century, as have the reasons for its unusual severity among young adults. Here, we reconstruct the origins of the pandemic virus and the classic swine influenza and (postpandemic) seasonal H1N1 lineages using a host-specific molecular clock approach that is demonstrably more accurate than previous methods. Our results suggest that the 1918 pandemic virus originated shortly before 1918 when a human H1 virus, which we infer emerged before ∼1907, acquired avian N1 neuraminidase and internal protein genes. We find that the resulting pandemic virus jumped directly to swine but was likely displaced in humans by ∼1922 by a reassortant with an antigenically distinct H1 HA. Hence, although the swine lineage was a direct descendent of the pandemic virus, the post-1918 seasonal H1N1 lineage evidently was not, at least for HA. These findings help resolve several seemingly disparate observations from 20th century influenza epidemiology, seroarcheology, and immunology. The phylogenetic results, combined with these other lines of evidence, suggest that the highmortality in 1918 among adults aged ∼20 to ∼40 y may have been due primarily to their childhood exposure to a doubly heterosubtypic putative H3N8 virus, which we estimate circulated from ∼1889-1900. All other age groups (except immunologically naive infants) were likely partially protected by childhood exposure to N1 and/or H1-related antigens. Similar processes may underlie age-specific mortality differences between seasonal H1N1 vs. H3N2 and human H5N1 vs. H7N9 infections.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8107-8112
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Volume111
Issue number22
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 3 2014

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H1N1 Subtype Influenza A Virus
Pandemics
Orthomyxoviridae
Viruses
Swine
Human Influenza
H3N8 Subtype Influenza A Virus
Influenza A virus
Neuraminidase
Allergy and Immunology
Young Adult
Epidemiology
Age Groups
Antigens
Mortality
Infection
Proteins

Keywords

  • Cohort immunity
  • Pathogenicity
  • Phylogeny
  • Reassortment
  • Virulence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

Cite this

Genesis and pathogenesis of the 1918 pandemic H1N1 influenza a virus. / Worobey, Michael; Han, Guan Zhu; Rambaut, Andrew.

In: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, Vol. 111, No. 22, 03.06.2014, p. 8107-8112.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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