Researchers have developed a method to identify mutations of the influenza virus before the onset of flu season, according to research published in Nature Microbiology.

Yoshihiro Kawaoka, PhD, and colleagues at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine Influenza Research Institute developed the strategy to help predict potential viral mutations of the flu. After obtaining samples of naturally occurring human H1N1 and H3N2 flu viruses from the 2009-2010 and 2012-2013 flu seasons, the researchers injected random mutations into the genetic material of the viruses. Those mutations were mixed with current antibodies against circulating flu viruses.

The researchers used a process called antigenic cartography to map the mutational patterns of the virus, revealing clusters of viruses with unique mutations matching the natural evolution of the H1N1 and H3N2 viruses. 

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“This laboratory-based method of predicting how current influenza virus strains will mutate could be used to help choose the influenza strains in the seasonal flu vaccine,” concluded Dr Kawoka. 


  1. Li C, Hatta M, Burke DF, et al. Selection of antigenetically advanced variants of seasonal influenza viruses. Nat Microbiol. 2016; doi: 10.1038/nmicrobiol.2016.58