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Virus Res. 2005 Jun;110(1-2):9-20.

Fitness and virulence of an ancestral White Spot Syndrome Virus isolate from shrimp.

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Laboratory of Virology, Wageningen University, Binnenhaven 11, 6709 PD Wageningen, The Netherlands.


White Spot Syndrome Virus, the type species of the virus family Nimaviridae, is a large dsDNA virus infecting shrimp and other crustaceans. Genomic analysis of three completely sequenced WSSV isolates identified two major polymorphic loci, "variable region ORF14/15" and "variable region ORF23/24". Here, we characterize a WSSV isolate originating from shrimp collected in Thailand in 1996 (TH-96-II). This isolate contains the largest WSSV genome ( approximately 312 kb) identified so far, mainly because of its sequences in both major polymorphic loci. Analysis of "variable region ORF14/15" suggests that TH-96-II may be ancestral to the WSSV isolates described to date. A comparison for virulence was made between TH-96-II and WSSV-TH, a well characterized isolate containing the smallest genome ( approximately 293 kb) identified at present. After injection of the isolates into Penaeus monodon the mortality rates showed that the median lethal time (LT50) of TH-96-II was approximately 14 days, compared to 3.5 days for WSSV-TH. When both isolates were mixed in equal amounts and serially passaged in shrimp, WSSV-TH outcompeted TH-96-II within four passages. These data suggest a higher virulence of WSSV-TH compared to TH-96-II. The molecular basis for the difference in virulence remains unclear, but a replication advantage of the 19 kb smaller WSSV-TH genome could play a role.

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