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Detection and discrimination of influenza B Victoria lineage deletion variant viruses by real-time RT-PCR

By Bo Shu, Marie K. Kirby, Christine Warnes, Wendy M Sessions, William G Davis, Ji Liu, Malania M Wilson, David E Wentworth, John R. Barnes

Posted 25 Oct 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/818617 (published DOI: 10.2807/1560-7917.ES.2020.25.41.1900652)

Influenza B viruses have two genetically and antigenically distinct lineages, B/Victoria/2/1987-like (VIC) and B/Yamagata/16/1988-like (YAM) viruses, that emerged in the 1980s and co-circulate annually during the influenza season. During the 2016-2017 influenza season, influenza B/VIC lineage variant viruses emerged with two (K162N163) or three (K162N163D164) amino acid (AA) deletions in the hemagglutinin protein. Hemagglutination inhibition assays demonstrate that these deletion variant influenza B/VIC viruses are antigenically distinct from each other and from the progenitor B/VIC virus that lacks the deletion. Therefore, there are currently four antigenically distinct HA proteins expressed by influenza B co-circulating: B/YAM, B/VIC V1A (no deletion), B/VIC V1A.1 (two-AA deletion), and B/VIC V1A.2 and V1A.3 (three-AA deletion). The prevalence of these viruses differs across geographic regions, making it critical to have a sensitive, rapid diagnostic assay(s) that detect and distinguish these Influenza B variant viruses during surveillance. Here, we present a real time RT-PCR assay that targets the influenza B/VIC deletion region in the HA gene and detects and distinguishes the influenza B/VIC V1A, B/VIC V1A.1, B/VIC V1A.2 and B/VIC V1A.3 variant viruses, with no cross-reactivity. This assay can be run as a multiplex reaction, allowing for increased testing efficiency and reduced cost. Coupling this assay with the CDC Human Influenza Virus Real-Time RT-PCR Diagnostic Panel Influenza B Lineage Genotyping Kit results in rapid detection and characterization of circulating influenza B viruses. Having accurate and detailed surveillance information on these distinct Influenza B variant viruses will provide insight into the prevalence and geographic distribution and could aid in vaccine recommendations.

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