Medical Definition of Antigenic shift

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Antigenic shift: A sudden shift in the antigenicity of a virus resulting from the recombination of the genomes of two viral strains. Antigenic shift is seen only with influenza A viruses. It results usually from the replacement of the hemagglutinin (the viral attachment protein that also mediates the entry of the virus into the cell) with a novel subtype that has not been present in human influenzaviruses for a long time. The source of these new genes is the large reservoir of influenzaviruses in waterfowl. The consequences of the introduction of a new hemagglutinin into human viruses is usually a pandemic, or a worldwide epidemic.

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Reviewed on 12/21/2018

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