Thirty-one strains of human influenza A (H1N1) viruses isolated in Europe, mostly in Finland, from 1978-1992 were compared with respect to their nucleotide sequences coding for the HA1 portion of haemagglutinin. In 1984, at least two sublineages of H1N1 subtype viruses co-circulated in Finland. The viruses isolated after 1986 formed three sequential phylogenetic clusters. Loss of glycosylation sites, on the globular head of the HA1 portion suggests that oligosaccharides at these sites are not necessarily advantageous for the human virus. Isolation of a herald strain in Finland in June 1988 raised the question as to whether the virus was able to survive in Europe throughout the non-epidemic summer period. Demonstration of highly conserved strains, found over two continents in 1988, is further evidence of the existence of infection chains whose viruses have not been subjected to random sampling or selection events.


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