Antigenic Drift vs Antigenic Shift

KAREN STEWARD PHD | October 25, 2018

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As part of the host-pathogen arms race, viruses are continually evolving to evade the host immune response, be it from previous infection or immunity acquired through vaccination. Many people get their annual flu shots in the hope it will protect them from that year’s seasonal flu outbreaks. However, there is no guarantee that the strains predicted to be circulating that year will actually be the ones that do. Even with careful research and probability modeling, a certain amount of educated guesswork is involved for manufacturers who select strains to incorporate into the annual vaccine. And the main culprit for their headaches? Antigenic drift and antigenic shift.

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