Detection and genetic analysis of emerging influenza field strains
The emergence and evolution of new and virulent strains of influenza virus poses a continuing threat to mankind. The devastation caused by the great pandemic of 1918 and the recent (1997-2008) outbreak of H5N1 avian influenza isolated in humans has elevated concerns of yet another human pandemic. This dissertation is a compilation of original, peer-reviewed publications describing: (1) development of rapid and robust influenza detection strategies and (2) elucidation of the immunodominant influenza surface glycoprotein amino acid residues, i.e., hemagglutinin and neuraminidase that define antigenicity and impart antigenic drift significantly affecting annually the use of therapeutic influenza vaccines. Development and utilization of these influenza diagnostic assays should prove to be of considerable value for 'point of care' screening during a future pandemic influenza outbreak. Equally important, the elucidation of key amino acid mutations from human influenza A and B field strains presenting in the 2004 and 2006 influenza seasons described in this dissertation have contributed directly to formulation changes in the globally distributed trivalent vaccine employed for protection against circulating influenza strains.