Evolutionary and molecular analysis of the emergent severe fever with thrombocytopenia syndrome virus.
Lam TT., Liu W., Bowden TA., Cui N., Zhuang L., Liu K., Zhang YY., Cao WC., Pybus OG.
In 2009, a novel Bunyavirus, called severe fever with thrombocytopenia syndrome virus (SFTSV) was identified in the vicinity of Huaiyangshan, China. Clinical symptoms of this zoonotic virus included severe fever, thrombocytopenia, and leukocytopenia, with a mortality rate of ~10%. By the end of 2011 the disease associated with this pathogen had been reported from eleven Chinese provinces and human-to-human transmission suspected. However, current understanding of the evolution and molecular epidemiology of SFTSV before and after its identification is limited. To address this we undertake phylogenetic, evolutionary and structural analyses of all available SFTSV genetic sequences, including a new SFTSV complete genome isolated from a patient from Henan in 2011. Our discovery of a mosaic L segment sequence, which is descended from two major circulating lineages of SFTSV in China, represents the first evidence that homologous recombination plays a role in SFTSV evolution. Selection analyses indicate that negative selection is predominant in SFTSV genes, yet differences in selective forces among genes are consistent between Phlebovirus species. Further analysis reveals structural conservation between SFTSV and Rift Valley fever virus in the residues of their nucleocapsids that are responsible for oligomerisation and RNA-binding, suggesting the viruses share similar modes of higher-order assembly. We reconstruct the epidemic history of SFTSV using molecular clock and coalescent-based methods, revealing that the extant SFTSV lineages originated 50-150 years ago, and that the viral population experienced a recent growth phase that concurs with and extends the earliest serological reports of SFTSV infection. Taken together, our combined structural and phylogenetic analyses shed light into the evolutionary behaviour of SFTSV in the context of other, better-known, pathogenic Phleboviruses.