Influenza: its antigenic variation and ecology
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Influenza viruses have two surface antigens, the glycoprotein structures hemagglutinin (HA) and neuraminidase (NA). Antibodies to each of these are associated with immunity, but the structures themselves are antigenically variable. When an antigenic change is gradual over time it is referred to as a drift, while a sudden complete or major change in either or both antigens is termed a shift. The mechanism of antigenic drift is usually attributed to selection of preexisting mutants by pressure from increasing immunity in the human population. The mechanism of antigenic shift is less clear, but one tentative hypothesis is that shifts arise from mammalian or avian reservoirs, or through genetic recombination of human and animal influenza strains (Au)
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