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Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2001 Dec;951:153-60.

Kunjin virus: an Australian variant of West Nile?

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Department of Microbiology and Parasitology, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia.


Kunjin (KUN) is a flavivirus in the Japanese encephalitis antigenic complex that was first isolated from Culex annulirostris mosquitoes captured in northern Australia in 1960. It is the etiological agent of a human disease characterized by febrile illness with rash or mild encephalitis and, occasionally, of a neurological disease in horses. KUN virus shares a similar epidemiology and ecology with the closely related Murray Valley encephalitis (MVE) virus, the major causative agent of arboviral encephalitis in Australia. Based on traditional antigenic methods, KUN was initially found to be similar to, but distinct from, reference strains of West Nile (WN) virus and designated as a new species. However, more recent phylogenic analyses have revealed that some strains of WN virus, including the isolates from New York, are more similar to KUN virus and form a separate lineage to other WN viruses. An unusual KUN isolate from Malaysia and the African virus Koutango appear to form additional lineages within the WN group of viruses. While these findings are in agreement with the Seventh Report of the International Committee for the Taxonomy of Viruses that designates KUN as a subtype of West Nile, they also suggest that the species should be further subdivided into additional subtypes.

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