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Vaccines and viral antigenic diversity

Author(s) : J.A. Mumford

Summary :

Antigenic diversity among ribonucleic acid (RNA) viruses occurs as a result of rapid mutation during replication and recombination/reassortment between genetic material of related strains during co-infections. Variants which have a selective advantage in terms of ability to spread or to avoid host immunity become established within populations. Examples of antigenically diverse viruses include influenza, foot and mouth disease (FMD) and bluetongue (BT). Effective vaccination against such viruses requires surveillance programmes to monitor circulating serotypes and their evolution to ensure that vaccine strains match field viruses. A formal vaccine strain selection scheme for equine influenza has been established under the auspices of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) based on an international surveillance programme. A regulatory framework has been put in place to allow rapid updating of vaccine strains without the need to provide full registration data for licensing the updated vaccine.

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