Background: The influenza B viruses belong to two lineages distinguished by their genetic and antigenic characteristics, which are referred to as the Yamagata and Victoria lineages, designated after their original isolates, B/Yamagata/16/88 and B/Victoria/2/87. The primary aim of this study was to evaluate the molecular characteristics of influenza B viruses circulating in a region of Northern Italy, Lombardia, during the influenza season of 2015–2016. Methods: Influenza B virus was detected using a respiratory virus panel of assays and an influenza B-specific real-time polymerase chain reaction. The complete influenza B hemagglutinin (HA) gene was amplified and sequenced directly from clinical specimens. Phylogenetic analysis was performed using nucleotide sequences. Results: A total of 71 hospitalized pediatric patients were influenza B positive. Phylogenetic analysis showed that the great majority of influenza B strains (66/71, 93.0%) belonged to the Victoria-lineage and were antigenically like vaccine strain (B/Brisbane/60/2008) included only in the quadrivalent vaccine. In the detected influenza B strains, a series of amino acid changes were observed in the antigenic regions: I117V, V124A, N129D, V146I, N197D, T199A, and A202T. However, only 2 amino acid changes were observed in the HA regions involved in receptor binding or in antibody recognition. Conclusions: All the influenza B strains identified in this study belonged to the influenza B Victoria lineage not included in the trivalent vaccine commonly used by the general population during the 2015–2016 influenza season in Italy. This indicates that protection against influenza B infection in the vaccinated population was in general very poor during the 2015–2016 influenza season.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)