University of Chicago
The global migration patterns of influenza viruses have profound implications for the evolutionary and epidemiological dynamics of the disease. We developed a novel approach to reconstruct the genetic history of human influenza A (H3N2) collected worldwide over 1998 to 2009 and used it to infer the global network of influenza transmission. Consistent with previous models, we find that China and Southeast Asia lie at the center of this global network. However, we also find that strains of influenza circulate outside of Asia for multiple seasons, persisting through dynamic migration between northern and southern regions. The USA acts as the primary hub of temperate transmission and, together with China and Southeast Asia, forms the trunk of influenza's evolutionary tree. These findings suggest that antiviral use outside of China and Southeast Asia may lead to the evolution of long-term local and potentially global antiviral resistance. Our results might also aid the design of surveillance efforts and of vaccines better tailored to different geographic regions.