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Mitigating Pandemic Risk with Influenza A Virus Field Surveillance at a Swine-Human Interface

By Benjamin L. Rambo-Martin, Matthew W. Keller, Malania M Wilson, Jacqueline M Nolting, Tavis K Anderson, Amy L. Vincent, Ujwal Bagal, Yunho Jang, Elizabeth B Neuhaus, C. Todd Davis, Andrew S Bowman, David E Wentworth, John R. Barnes

Posted 21 Mar 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/585588

Working overnight at a large swine exhibition, we identified an influenza A virus (IAV) outbreak in swine, nanopore-sequenced 13 IAV genomes from samples collected, and in real-time, determined that these viruses posed a novel risk to humans due to genetic mismatches between the viruses and current pre-pandemic candidate vaccine viruses (CVV). We developed and used a portable IAV sequencing and analysis platform called Mia (Mobile Influenza Analysis) to complete and characterize full-length consensus genomes approximately 18 hours after unpacking the mobile lab. Swine are important animal IAV reservoirs that have given rise to pandemic viruses via zoonotic transmission. Genomic analyses of IAV in swine are critical to understanding pandemic risk of viruses in this reservoir, and characterization of viruses circulating in exhibition swine enables rapid comparison to current seasonal influenza vaccines and CVVs. The Mia system rapidly identified three genetically distinct swine IAV lineages from three subtypes: A(H1N1), A(H3N2) and A(H1N2). Additional analysis of the HA protein sequences of the A(H1N2) viruses identified >30 amino acid differences between the HA1 portion of the hemagglutinin of these viruses and the most closely related pre-2009 CVV. All virus sequences were emailed to colleagues at CDC who initiated development of a synthetically derived CVV designed to provide an optimal antigenic match with the viruses detected in the exhibition. In subsequent months, this virus caused 13 infections in humans, and was the dominant variant virus in the US detected in 2018. Had this virus caused a severe outbreak or pandemic, our proactive surveillance efforts and CVV derivation would have provided an approximate 8 week time advantage for vaccine manufacturing. This is the first report of the use of field-derived nanopore sequencing data to initiate a real-time, actionable public health countermeasure.

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