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J Virol. 2008 Nov;82(22):11023-44. doi: 10.1128/JVI.00777-08. Epub 2008 Sep 10.

Complete DNA sequences of two oka strain varicella-zoster virus genomes.

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  • 1Viral Vaccines Research and Development, GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals, Rue de l'Institut, 89 (P31-005), B-1330 Rixensart, Belgium.


Varicella-zoster virus (VZV) is a herpesvirus and is the causative agent of chicken pox (varicella) and shingles (herpes zoster). Active immunization against varicella became possible with the development of live attenuated varicella vaccine. The Oka vaccine strain was isolated in Japan from a child who had typical varicella, and it was then attenuated by serial passages in cell culture. Several manufacturers have obtained this attenuated Oka strain and, following additional passages, have developed their own vaccine strains. Notably, the vaccines Varilrix and Varivax are produced by GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals and Merck & Co., Inc., respectively. Both vaccines have been well studied in terms of safety and immunogenicity. In this study, we report the complete nucleotide sequence of the Varilrix (Oka-V(GSK)) and Varivax (Oka-V(Merck)) vaccine strain genomes. Their genomes are composed of 124,821 and 124,815 bp, respectively. Full genome annotations covering the features of Oka-derived vaccine genomes have been established for the first time. Sequence analysis indicates 36 nucleotide differences between the two vaccine strains throughout the entire genome, among which only 14 are involved in unique amino acid substitutions. These results demonstrate that, although Oka-V(GSK) and Oka-V(Merck) vaccine strains are not identical, they are very similar, which supports the clinical data showing that both vaccines are well tolerated and elicit strong immune responses against varicella.

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