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Asynchrony between virus diversity and antibody selection limits influenza virus evolution

By Dylan H. Morris, Velislava N Petrova, Fernando W. Rossine, Edyth Parker, Bryan T Grenfell, Richard A Neher, Simon A. Levin, Colin A. Russell

Posted 29 Apr 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.04.27.064915 (published DOI: 10.7554/eLife.62105)

Seasonal influenza viruses create a persistent global disease burden by evolving to escape immunity induced by prior infections and vaccinations. New antigenic variants have a substantial selective advantage at the population level, but these variants are rarely selected within-host, even in previously immune individuals. Using a mathematical model, we show that the temporal asynchrony between within-host virus exponential growth and antibody-mediated selection could limit within-host antigenic evolution. If selection for new antigenic variants acts principally at the point of initial virus inoculation, where small virus populations encounter well-matched mucosal antibodies in previously infected individuals, there can exist protection against reinfection that does not regularly produce observable new antigenic variants within individual infected hosts. Our results provide a theoretical explanation for how virus antigenic evolution can be highly selective at the global level but nearly neutral within host. They also suggest new avenues for improving influenza control. ### Competing Interest Statement The authors have declared no competing interest.

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