The epidemiological signature of influenza B virus and its B/Victoria and B/Yamagata lineages in the 21st century

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We describe the epidemiological characteristics, pattern of circulation, and geographical distribution of influenza B viruses and its lineages using data from the Global Influenza B Study. We included over 1.8 million influenza cases occurred in thirty-one countries during 2000–2018. We calculated the proportion of cases caused by influenza B and its lineages; determined the timing of influenza A and B epidemics; compared the age distribution of B/Victoria and B/Yamagata cases; and evaluated the frequency of lineage-level mismatch for the trivalent vaccine.

The median proportion of influenza cases caused by influenza B virus was 23.4%, with a tendency (borderline statistical significance, p = 0.060) to be higher in tropical vs. temperate countries. Influenza B was the dominant virus type in about one every seven seasons. In temperate countries, influenza B epidemics occurred on average three weeks later than influenza A epidemics; no consistent pattern emerged in the tropics. The two B lineages caused a comparable proportion of influenza B cases globally, however, the B/Yamagata was more frequent in temperate countries, and the B/Victoria in the tropics (p = 0.048). B/Yamagata patients were significantly older than B/Victoria patients in almost all countries. A lineage-level vaccine mismatch was observed in over 40% of seasons in temperate countries and in 30% of seasons in the tropics.

The type B virus caused a substantial proportion of influenza infections globally in the 21st century, and its two virus lineages differed in terms of age and geographical distribution of patients. These findings will help inform health policy decisions aiming to reduce disease burden associated with seasonal influenza.Infleunza B signature 21 century