Human influenza A(H2N2) viruses emerged in 1957 and were replaced by A(H3N2) viruses in 1968. The antigenicity of human H2N2 viruses has been tested by using ferret antisera or mouse and human monoclonal antibodies. Here, we examined the antigenicity of human H2N2 viruses by using human plasma samples obtained from 50 aged individuals who were born between 1928 and 1933 and from 33 younger adult individuals who were born after 1962. The aged individuals possessed higher neutralization titers against H2N2 viruses isolated in 1957 and 1963 than those against H2N2 viruses isolated in 1968, whereas the younger adults who were born between 1962 and 1968 possessed higher neutralization titers against H2N2 viruses isolated in 1963 than those against other H2N2 viruses. Antigenic cartography revealed the antigenic changes that occurred in human H2N2 viruses during circulation in humans for 11 years, as detected by ferret antisera. These results show that even though aged individuals were likely exposed to more recent H2N2 viruses that are antigenically distinct from the earlier H2N2 viruses, they did not possess high neutralizing antibody titers to the more recent viruses, suggesting immunological imprinting of these individuals with the first H2N2 viruses they encountered and that this immunological imprinting lasts for over 50 years.
Keywords: H2N2; aged individuals; antigenic change; antigenic drift; influenza A virus.