The influenza pandemic of 2009: lessons and implications

Mol Diagn Ther. 2011 Apr 1;15(2):63-81. doi: 10.1007/BF03256397.


Influenza is a moving target, which evolves in unexpected directions and is recurrent annually. The 2009 influenza A/H1N1 pandemic virus was unlike the 2009 seasonal virus strains and originated in pigs prior to infecting humans. Three strains of viruses gave rise to the pandemic virus by antigenic shift, reassortment, and recombination, which occurred in pigs as 'mixing vessels'. The three strains of viruses had originally been derived from birds, pigs, and humans. The influenza hemagglutinin (HA) and neuraminidase (NA) external proteins are used to categorize and group influenza viruses. The internal proteins (PB1, PB1-F2, PB2, PA, NP, M, and NS) are involved in the pathogenesis of influenza infection. A major difference between the 1918 and 2009 pandemic viruses is the lack of the pathogenic protein PB1-F2 in the 2009 pandemic strains, which was present in the more virulent 1918 pandemic strains. We provide an overview of influenza infection since 1847 and the advent of influenza vaccination since 1944. Vaccines and chemotherapy help reduce the spread of influenza, reduce morbidity and mortality, and are utilized by the global rapid-response organizations associated with the WHO. Immediate identification of impending epidemic and pandemic strains, as well as sustained vigilance and collaboration, demonstrate continued success in combating influenza.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antiviral Agents / pharmacology
  • Antiviral Agents / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Influenza A Virus, H1N1 Subtype / drug effects
  • Influenza A Virus, H1N1 Subtype / genetics
  • Influenza A Virus, H1N1 Subtype / immunology
  • Influenza A Virus, H1N1 Subtype / physiology*
  • Influenza A Virus, H5N1 Subtype / physiology
  • Influenza Vaccines / immunology
  • Influenza Vaccines / supply & distribution
  • Influenza, Human / drug therapy
  • Influenza, Human / epidemiology*
  • Influenza, Human / immunology
  • Pandemics*


  • Antiviral Agents
  • Influenza Vaccines