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J Med Virol. 2003;70 Suppl 1:S42-7.

Genetic variation of varicella-zoster virus: evidence for geographical separation of strains.

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Department of Medical Microbiology, Medical and Dental School, Queen Mary College, 25-29 Ashfield Street, London E1 1BB, England, UK.


Heteroduplex mobility assay was used to identify variants of varicella-zoster virus (VZV) circulating in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. Forty variable positions were identified. Sixteen substitutions were non-synonymous, resulting in an amino acid change, the majority of which were clustered within surface expressed proteins. Phylogenetic analysis distinguished at least three major clades (strains A, B, C) supported by significant bootstrap values. Apart from the United Kingdom and Brazil where all three strains were found, genotypes appeared to be closely associated with the geographical region in which they were sampled. Allelic co-segregation of widely spaced single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) confirmed the genetic stability of the VZV. Recombination rates were difficult to calculate because of the low intra genotypic variation. However, one haplotype originating from Brazil is most parsimoniously explained as a recombinant between A and C strains, which co-occur in the region. Two further UK strains appeared to be recombinants between groups B and C.

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