Molecular character of influenza A/H1N1 2009: Implications for spread and control

Indian J Microbiol. 2009 Dec;49(4):339-47. doi: 10.1007/s12088-009-0060-7. Epub 2010 Jan 7.


The world is experiencing a pandemic of influenza that emerged in March 2009, due to a novel strain designated influenza A/H1N1 2009. This strain is closest in molecular sequence to swine influenza viruses, but differs from all previously known influenza by a minimum of 6.1%, and from prior "seasonal" H1N1 by 27.2%, giving it great potential for widespread human infection. While spread into India was delayed for two months by an aggressive interdiction program, since 1 August 2009 most cases in India have been indigenous. H1N1 2009 has differentially struck younger patients who are naïve susceptibles to its antigenic subtype, while sparing those >60 who have crossreactive antibody from prior experience with influenza decades ago and the 1977 "swine flu" vaccine distributed in the United States. It also appears to more severely affect pregnant women. It emanated from a single source in central Mexico, but its precise geographical and circumstantial origins, from either Eurasia or the Americas, remain uncertain. While currently a mild pandemic by the standard of past pandemics, the seriousness of H1N1 2009 especially among children should not be underestimated. There is potential for the virus, which continues to adapt to humans, to change over time into a more severe etiologic agent by any of several foreseeable mutations. Mass acceptance of the novel H1N1 2009 vaccine worldwide will be essential to its control. Having spread globally in a few months, affecting millions of people, it is likely to remain circulating in the human population for a decade or more.

Keywords: H1N1; Influenza; Swine flu.