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The global-scale epidemiology and genome-wide evolutionary dynamics of influenza B remain poorly understood compared with influenza A viruses. We compiled a spatio-temporally comprehensive dataset of influenza B viruses, comprising over 2,500 genomes sampled worldwide between 1987 and 2015, including 382 newly-sequenced genomes that fill substantial gaps in previous molecular surveillance studies. Our contributed data increase the number of available influenza B virus genomes in Europe, Africa and Central Asia, improving the global context to study influenza B viruses. We reveal Yamagata-lineage diversity results from co-circulation of two antigenically-distinct groups that also segregate genetically across the entire genome, without evidence of intra-lineage reassortment. In contrast, Victoria-lineage diversity stems from geographic segregation of different genetic clades, with variability in the degree of geographic spread among clades. Differences between the lineages are reflected in their antigenic dynamics, as Yamagata-lineage viruses show alternating dominance between antigenic groups, while Victoria-lineage viruses show antigenic drift of a single lineage. Structural mapping of amino acid substitutions on trunk branches of influenza B gene phylogenies further supports these antigenic differences and highlights two potential mechanisms of adaptation for polymerase activity. Our study provides new insights into the epidemiological and molecular processes shaping influenza B virus evolution globally.

Original publication




Journal article


PLoS pathogens

Publication Date





e1006749 - e1006749


Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, Hinxton, United Kingdom.