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Virology. 2004 Jan 5;318(1):10-6.

The high genetic variation of viruses of the genus Nairovirus reflects the diversity of their predominant tick hosts.

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Special Pathogens Branch, Division of Viral and Rickettsial Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA 30333, USA.


The genus Nairovirus (family Bunyaviridae) contains seven serogroups consisting of 34 predominantly tick-borne viruses, including several associated with severe human and livestock diseases [e.g., Crimean Congo hemorrhagic fever (CCHF) and Nairobi sheep disease (NSD), respectively]. Before this report, no comparative genetic studies or molecular detection assays had been developed for this virus genus. To characterize at least one representative from each of the seven serogroups, reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) primers targeting the L polymerase-encoding region of the RNA genome of these viruses were successfully designed based on conserved amino acid motifs present in the predicted catalytic core region. Sequence analysis showed the nairoviruses to be a highly diverse group, exhibiting up to 39.4% and 46.0% nucleotide and amino acid identity differences, respectively. Virus genetic relationships correlated well with serologic groupings and with tick host associations. Hosts of these viruses include both the hard (family Ixodidae) and soft (family Argasidae) ticks. Virus phylogenetic analysis reveals two major monophyletic groups: hard tick and soft tick-vectored viruses. In addition, viruses vectored by Ornithodoros, Carios, and Argas genera ticks also form three separate monophyletic lineages. The striking similarities between tick and nairovirus phylogenies are consistent with possible coevolution of the viruses and their tick hosts. Fossil and phylogenetic data placing the hard tick-soft tick divergence between 120 and 92 million years ago suggest an ancient origin for viruses of the genus Nairovirus.

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