Antigenic Variation

G. M. Air, J. T. West

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This article discusses antigenic variation; the different mechanisms used by viruses to escape the host immune system and the resulting problems with vaccine design and/or production. We have focused on antibody selection and only briefly discuss T-cell selection. Historically, virus variants were defined by serology; a total lack of cross-reactivity means a different virus type and lack of cross-reactivity of a particular protein defines a subtype. Current definitions of relationships may rely more on sequence than serology, depending on the virus under study. Many virus groups show considerable antigenic variation and we will summarize the characteristics of the variation for some of the variable groups. We go into more details of mechanisms with two examples of particularly variable surface antigens: human immunodeficiency virus and influenza viruses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationEncyclopedia of Virology
PublisherElsevier Ltd
Number of pages10
ISBN (Print)9780123744104
StatePublished - Jan 1 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Antigenic drift
  • Antigenic shift
  • Envelope protein
  • Gp120
  • Gp41
  • Hemagglutinin
  • Human immunodeficiency virus
  • Influenza virus
  • Mechanisms of neutralization
  • Neuraminidase
  • Neutralizing antibodies
  • Quasispecies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Antigenic Variation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this