Epidemiology and Genetic Properties of Influenza A

Frequent typing and molecular characterization of influenza A (IAV) strains are crucial for the identification of circulating subtypes and for the selection of the subtypes’ lineages to be included in the annually prepared vaccine cocktail. We investigated IAV sampled from an underrepresented population from Palestine. 200 nasopharyngeal aspirates (NPA) were collected between February and May of 2015 from Palestinians in East Jerusalem and the West Bank suffering from mild to severe symptoms of upper respiratory infections. NPA were screened for the presence of IAV using RT-PCR.

Epidemiological data, hemagglutinin (HA) and neuraminidase (NA) gene sequences were analyzed in IAV positive samples. 50 samples tested positive for IAV; 48% of which were identified as A(H1N1)pdm09 and 52% as A(H3N2), respectively. Infection with A(H1N1)pdm09 occurred mainly in April, while A (H3N2) infections were mainly detected in March. Most IAV infections in 6-year-olds and below were attributed to subtype A(H3N2), while A(H1N1)pdm09 was responsible for most infections in adults above 18-year- lds. Analyses of HA and NA amino acid sequences revealed numerous substitutions. Thereafter, and based on the HA analysis, the Palestinian A(H1N1)pdm09 isolates fell into clade 6B, while the A(H3N2) isolates fell into clades 3C.2 and 3C.3, respectively.

This study is significant in providing the first insight into the epidemiology and genetic properties of IAV circulating in Palestine. In contrast to international reports for the same season, A(H3N2) was not the dominant subtype as in northern hemisphere, nor was A(H1N1)pdm09 as in WHO reports for the Middle East, however genetic properties of Palestinian A(H3N2) and A(H1N1)pdm09 were in line with global isolates.