Lineage-specific protection and immune imprinting shape the age distributions of influenza B cases

Marcos C. Vieira, Celeste M. Donato, Philip Arevalo, Guus F. Rimmelzwaan, Timothy Wood, Liza Lopez, Q. Sue Huang, Vijaykrishna Dhanasekaran, Katia Koelle, Sarah Cobey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


How a history of influenza virus infections contributes to protection is not fully understood, but such protection might explain the contrasting age distributions of cases of the two lineages of influenza B, B/Victoria and B/Yamagata. Fitting a statistical model to those distributions using surveillance data from New Zealand, we found they could be explained by historical changes in lineage frequencies combined with cross-protection between strains of the same lineage. We found additional protection against B/Yamagata in people for whom it was their first influenza B infection, similar to the immune imprinting observed in influenza A. While the data were not informative about B/Victoria imprinting, B/Yamagata imprinting could explain the fewer B/Yamagata than B/Victoria cases in cohorts born in the 1990s and the bimodal age distribution of B/Yamagata cases. Longitudinal studies can test if these forms of protection inferred from historical data extend to more recent strains and other populations.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4313
Number of pages14
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021

Cite this