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  • Characterization of Hepatitis C Virus Recombination in Cameroon by Use of Nonspecific Next-Generation Sequencing.

    16 October 2018

    The importance of recombination in the evolution and genetic diversity of the hepatitis C virus (HCV) is currently uncertain. Only a small number of intergenotypic recombinants have been identified so far, and each has core and envelope genes classified as belonging to genotype 2. Here, we investigated two putative genotype 4/1 recombinants from southern Cameroon using a number of approaches, including standard Sanger sequencing, genotype-specific PCR amplification, and non-HCV-specific Illumina RNA sequencing (RNA-seq). Recombination between genotypes 1 and 4 was confirmed in both samples, and the parental lineages of each recombinant belong to HCV subtypes that are cocirculating at a high prevalence in Cameroon. Using the RNA-seq approach, we obtained a complete genome for one sample, which contained a recombination breakpoint at the E2/P7 gene junction. We developed and applied a new method, called Deep SimPlot, which can be used to visualize and identify viral recombination directly from the short sequence reads created by next-generation sequencing in conjunction with a consensus sequence.

  • Molecular Epidemiology and Evolution of Influenza Viruses Circulating within European Swine between 2009 and 2013.

    16 October 2018

    The emergence in humans of the A(H1N1)pdm09 influenza virus, a complex reassortant virus of swine origin, highlighted the importance of worldwide influenza virus surveillance in swine. To date, large-scale surveillance studies have been reported for southern China and North America, but such data have not yet been described for Europe. We report the first large-scale genomic characterization of 290 swine influenza viruses collected from 14 European countries between 2009 and 2013. A total of 23 distinct genotypes were identified, with the 7 most common comprising 82% of the incidence. Contrasting epidemiological dynamics were observed for two of these genotypes, H1huN2 and H3N2, with the former showing multiple long-lived geographically isolated lineages, while the latter had short-lived geographically diffuse lineages. At least 32 human-swine transmission events have resulted in A(H1N1)pdm09 becoming established at a mean frequency of 8% across European countries. Notably, swine in the United Kingdom have largely had a replacement of the endemic Eurasian avian virus-like ("avian-like") genotypes with A(H1N1)pdm09-derived genotypes. The high number of reassortant genotypes observed in European swine, combined with the identification of a genotype similar to the A(H3N2)v genotype in North America, underlines the importance of continued swine surveillance in Europe for the purposes of maintaining public health. This report further reveals that the emergences and drivers of virus evolution in swine differ at the global level.The influenza A(H1N1)pdm09 virus contains a reassortant genome with segments derived from separate virus lineages that evolved in different regions of the world. In particular, its neuraminidase and matrix segments were derived from the Eurasian avian virus-like ("avian-like") lineage that emerged in European swine in the 1970s. However, while large-scale genomic characterization of swine has been reported for southern China and North America, no equivalent study has yet been reported for Europe. Surveillance of swine herds across Europe between 2009 and 2013 revealed that the A(H1N1)pdm09 virus is established in European swine, increasing the number of circulating lineages in the region and increasing the possibility of the emergence of a genotype with human pandemic potential. It also has implications for veterinary health, making prevention through vaccination more challenging. The identification of a genotype similar to the A(H3N2)v genotype, causing zoonoses at North American agricultural fairs, underlines the importance of continued genomic characterization in European swine.

  • Hepatitis C virus infections in the Democratic Republic of Congo exhibit a cohort effect.

    16 October 2018

    The prevalence and genetic diversity of hepatitis C virus (HCV) and human pegivirus (HPgV) in many regions of sub-Saharan Africa is poorly characterized, including in the Democratic Republic of Congo--the largest country in the region and one of the most populous. To address this situation we conducted a molecular epidemiological survey of HCV and HPgV (previously named GB Virus C or hepatitis G virus) in samples collected in 2007 from 299 males from the DRC, whose ages ranged from 21 to 71 years old. Samples were tested for the presence of HCV antibodies by ELISA and reactive samples were subsequently tested for HCV RNA using RT-PCR in which both the HCV Core and NS5B genome regions were amplified. Remaining samples were tested for HPgV RNA and the HPgV NS3 genome region of positive samples was amplified. For HCV, 13.7% of the samples were seropositive (41/299) but only 3.7% were viremic (11/299). HPgV RNA was found in 12.7% (33/259) of samples. HCV viremia was strongly associated with age; the percentage of samples that contained detectable HCV RNA was ~0.5% in those younger than 50 and 13% in those older than 50. Our study represents the first systematic survey of HCV genetic diversity in the DRC. HCV sequences obtained belonged to diverse lineages of genotype 4, including subtypes 4c, 4 k, 4 l and 4r, plus one unclassified lineage that may constitute a new subtype. These data suggest that HCV in the DRC exhibits an age 'cohort effect', as has been recently reported in neighbouring countries, and are consistent with the hypothesis that HCV transmission rates were higher in the mid-twentieth century, possibly as a result of parenteral, iatrogenic, or other unidentified factors. Different HCV subtypes were associated with individuals of different ages, implying that HCV infection in the DRC may have arisen through multiple separate HCV epidemics with different causes.

  • Large-scale spatial and temporal genetic diversity of feline calicivirus.

    16 October 2018

    Feline calicivirus (FCV) is an important pathogen of domestic cats and a frequently used model of human caliciviruses. Here we use an epidemiologically rigorous sampling framework to describe for the first time the phylodynamics of a calicivirus at regional and national scales. A large number of FCV strains cocirculated in the United Kingdom at the national and community levels, with no strain comprising more than 5% and 14% of these populations, respectively. The majority of strains exhibited a relatively restricted geographical range, with only two strains (one field virus and one vaccine virus) spreading further than 100 km. None of the field strains were identified outside the United Kingdom. Temporally, while some strains persisted locally for the majority of the study, others may have become locally extinct. Evolutionary analysis revealed a radial phylogeny with little bootstrap support for nodes above the strain level. In most cases, spatially and temporally diverse strains intermingled in the phylogeny. Together, these data suggest that current FCV evolution is not associated with selective competition among strains. Rather, the genetic and antigenic landscape in each geographical location is highly complex, with many strains cocirculating. These variants likely exist at the community level by a combination of de novo evolution and occasional gene flow from the wider national population. This complexity provides a benchmark, for the first time, against which vaccine cross-protection at both local and national levels can be judged.

  • Measuring the Temporal Structure in Serially-Sampled Phylogenies.

    16 October 2018

    Nucleotide sequences sampled at different times (serially-sampled sequences) allow researchers to study the rate of evolutionary change and the demographic history of populations. Some phylogenies inferred from serially-sampled sequences are described as having strong 'temporal clustering', such that sequences from the same sampling time tend to to cluster together and to be the direct ancestors of sequences from the following sampling time. The degree to which phylogenies exhibit these properties is thought to reflect interesting biological processes, such as positive selection or deviation from the molecular clock hypothesis.Here we introduce the Temporal Clustering (TC) statistic, which is the first quantitative measure of the degree of topological 'temporal clustering' in a serially-sampled phylogeny. The TC statistic represents the expected deviation of an observed phylogeny from the null hypothesis of no temporal clustering, as a proportion of the range of possible values, and can therefore be compared among phylogeny of different sizes.We apply the TC statistic to a range of serially-sampled sequence datasets, which represent both rapidly-evolving viruses and ancient mitochondrial DNA. In addition, the TC statistic was calculated for phylogenies simulated under a neutral coalescent process.Our results indicate significant temporal clustering in many empirical datasets. However, we also find that such clustering is exhibited by trees simulated under a neutral coalescent process; hence the observation of significant 'temporal clustering' cannot unambiguously indicate that presence of strong positive selection in a population.Quantifying topological structure in this manner will provide new insights into the evolution of measurably evolving populations.

  • Possible sources and spreading routes of highly pathogenic avian influenza virus subtype H5N1 infections in poultry and wild birds in Central Europe in 2007 inferred through likelihood analyses.

    16 October 2018

    Recurrent outbreaks of H5N1 HPAIV occurred in several Central European countries in 2007. In-depth phylogenetic analyses which included full-length genomic sequences of the viruses involved were performed to elucidate possible origins of incursions and transmission pathways. Tree reconstructions as well as host-shift and ancestral area inferences were conducted in a maximum likelihood framework. All viruses belonged to a separate subgroup (termed "EMA-3") within clade 2.2, and, thus, were distinct from two lineages of HPAIV H5N1 viruses (termed "EMA-1" and "EMA-2") present in the same geographic area in 2006. Analysis of concatenated coding regions of all eight genome segments significantly improved resolution and robustness of the reconstructed phylogenies as compared to single gene analyses. At the same time, the methodological limits to establish retrospectively transmission networks in a comparatively small geographic region and spanning a short period of time became evident when only few corroborating field-epidemiological data are available. Ambiguities remained concerning the origin of the EMA-3 viruses from a region covering Southeast Germany and the Czech Republic as well as routes of spread to other European countries. AIV monitoring programmes in place for wild birds and poultry in these countries did not reveal presence of these viruses in either population. Host switches between domestic poultry and wild bird populations occurred several times. Analysis of outbreaks in Northeast Germany and nearby Northern Poland in December 2007 demonstrated that geographic and even temporal vicinity of outbreaks does not necessarily indicate a common source of incursion.

  • Yellow fever virus maintenance in Trinidad and its dispersal throughout the Americas.

    16 October 2018

    Trinidad, like many other American regions, experiences repeated epizootics of yellow fever virus (YFV). However, it is unclear whether these result from in situ evolution (enzootic maintenance) or regular reintroduction of YFV from the South American mainland. To discriminate between these hypotheses, we carried out a Bayesian phylogeographic analysis of over 100 prM/E gene sequences sampled from 8 South American countries. These included newly sequenced isolates from the recent 2008-2009 Trinidad epizootic and isolates derived from mainland countries within the last decade. The results indicate that the most recent common ancestor of the 2008-2009 epizootic existed in Trinidad 4.2 years prior to 2009 (95% highest probability density [HPD], 0.5 to 9.0 years). Our data also suggest a Trinidad origin for the progenitor of the 1995 Trinidad epizootic and support in situ evolution of YFV between the 1979 and 1988-1989 Trinidad epizootics. Using the same phylogeographic approach, we also inferred the historical spread of YFV in the Americas. The results suggest a Brazilian origin for YFV in the Americas and an overall dispersal rate of 182 km/year (95% HPD, 52 to 462 km/year), with Brazil as the major source population for surrounding countries. There is also strong statistical support for epidemiological links between four Brazilian regions and other countries. In contrast, while there were well-supported epidemiological links within Peru, the only statistically supported external link was a relatively weak link with neighboring Bolivia. Lastly, we performed a complete analysis of the genome of a newly sequenced Trinidad 2009 isolate, the first complete genome for a genotype I YFV isolate.

  • Widespread infection with homologues of human parvoviruses B19, PARV4, and human bocavirus of chimpanzees and gorillas in the wild.

    16 October 2018

    Infections with human parvoviruses B19 and recently discovered human bocaviruses (HBoVs) are widespread, while PARV4 infections are transmitted parenterally and prevalent specifically in injecting drug users and hemophiliacs. To investigate the exposure and circulation of parvoviruses related to B19 virus, PARV4, and HBoV in nonhuman primates, plasma samples collected from 73 Cameroonian wild-caught chimpanzees and gorillas and 91 Old World monkey (OWM) species were screened for antibodies to recombinant B19 virus, PARV4, and HBoV VP2 antigens by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). Moderate to high frequencies of seroreactivity to PARV4 (63% and 18% in chimpanzees and gorillas, respectively), HBoV (73% and 36%), and B19 virus (8% and 27%) were recorded for apes, while OWMs were uniformly negative (for PARV4 and B19 virus) or infrequently reactive (3% for HBoV). For genetic characterization, plasma samples and 54 fecal samples from chimpanzees and gorillas collected from Cameroonian forest floors were screened by PCR with primers conserved within Erythrovirus, Bocavirus, and PARV4 genera. Two plasma samples (chimpanzee and baboon) were positive for PARV4, while four fecal samples were positive for HBoV-like viruses. The chimpanzee PARV4 variant showed 18% and 15% nucleotide sequence divergence in NS and VP1/2, respectively, from human variants (9% and 7% amino acid, respectively), while the baboon variant was substantially more divergent, mirroring host phylogeny. Ape HBoV variants showed complex sequence relationships with human viruses, comprising separate divergent homologues of HBoV1 and the recombinant HBoV3 species in chimpanzees and a novel recombinant species in gorillas. This study provides the first evidence for widespread circulation of parvoviruses in primates and enables future investigations of their epidemiology, host specificity, and (co)evolutionary histories.

  • Changing epidemiology of human parvovirus 4 infection in sub-Saharan Africa.

    16 October 2018

    Human parvovirus 4 infections are primarily associated with parenteral exposure in western countries. By ELISA, we demonstrate frequent seropositivity for antibody to parvovirus 4 viral protein 2 among adult populations throughout sub-Saharan Africa (Burkina Faso, 37%; Cameroon, 25%; Democratic Republic of the Congo, 35%; South Africa, 20%), which implies existence of alternative transmission routes.