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J Gen Virol. 2006 Aug;87(Pt 8):2115-25.

Genomic characterization of a novel poxvirus contributing to the decline of the red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris) in the UK.

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Moredun Research Institute, Pentlands Science Park, Bush Loan, Penicuik EH26 0PZ, UK.


The genome of a virulent squirrelpox virus (SQPV) isolate was characterized in order to determine its relationship with other poxviruses. Restriction enzyme analysis suggested a genome length of approximately 158 kb, whilst sequence analysis of the two ends of the genome indicated a G + C composition of approximately 66 %. Two contiguous stretches of 23 and 37 kb at the left-hand and right-hand ends of the genome, respectively, were sequenced allowing the identification of at least 59 genes contained therein. The partial sequence of a further 15 genes was determined by spot sequencing of restriction fragments located across the genome. Phylogenetic analysis of 15 genes conserved in all the recognized genera of the subfamily Chordopoxvirinae confirmed that the SQPV does not group within the family Parapoxvirinae, but instead partitions on its own in a separate clade of the poxviruses. Analysis of serum from British woodland rodents failed to find any evidence of SQPV infection in wood mice or bank voles, but for the first time serum samples from grey squirrels in the USA were found to contain antibody against SQPV.

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