Frequent reassortment among influenza C viruses

J Virol. 2003 Jan;77(2):871-81. doi: 10.1128/jvi.77.2.871-881.2003.


In a 9-year survey from December 1990 to December 1999 in Sendai City, Japan, we succeeded in isolating a total of 45 strains of influenza C virus. These 45 strains were isolated in clusters within 4 months in a year, especially from winter to early summer. Previous studies of the hemagglutinin-esterase genes of various influenza C virus isolates revealed the existence of five distinct virus lineages (Aichi/1/81-, Yamagata/26/81-, Mississippi/80-, Sao Paulo/82-, and Kanagawa/1/76-related lineage) in Japan between 1970 and the early 1990s (Y. Matsuzaki, K. Mizuta, H. Kimura, K. Sugawara, E. Tsuchiya, H. Suzuki, S. Hongo, and K. Nakamura, J. Gen. Virol. 81:1447-1452, 2000). Antigenic and genetic analyses of the 45 strains showed that they could be divided into these five virus lineages and a few antigenic groups were cocirculating in Sendai City. In 1990 and 1991 the dominant antigenic group was the Aichi/1/81 virus group, and in 1992 it was Yamagata/26/81 virus group. The Mississippi/80 virus group was isolated from 1993 to 1996, and the Yamagata/26/81 virus group reemerged in 1996 and continued to circulate until 1999. This finding led us to a speculation that the replacement of the dominant antigenic groups had occurred by immune selection within the human population in the restricted area. Phylogenetic analysis of seven RNA segments showed that 44 viruses among the 45 strains isolated in our surveillance work were reassortant viruses that have various genome compositions distinguishable from those of the reference strains of the each lineage. This observation suggests that the reassortment between two different influenza C virus strains occurs frequently in nature and the genome composition of influenza C viruses may influence their ability to spread in humans.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antigens, Viral / immunology
  • Influenzavirus C / classification
  • Influenzavirus C / genetics*
  • Influenzavirus C / immunology
  • Phylogeny
  • Reassortant Viruses / classification
  • Reassortant Viruses / genetics*
  • Reassortant Viruses / immunology
  • Species Specificity


  • Antigens, Viral