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Emerg Infect Dis. 2008 Mar;14(3):436-44. doi: 10.3201/eid1403.070463.

Genetic variability of West Nile virus in US blood donors, 2002-2005.

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Food and Drug Administration, Bethesda, Maryland, USA.


West Nile virus (WNV) was detected in the United States in 1999, has reoccurred every summer since, and has become endemic. Transfusion transmission was documented in 2002, and screening of blood donations for WNV began in 2003. We investigated genetic variation of WNV in human isolates obtained from specimens collected from 30 infected blood donors who tested positive for WNV RNA during 2002-2005. Complete genomic sequences of 8 isolates and structural gene sequences from 22 additional isolates were analyzed. We found some genetic diversity in isolates from different geographic regions and genetic divergence from reported sequences from epidemics in 1999-2001. Nucleotide divergence of structural genes showed a small increase from 2002 (0.18%) to 2005 (0.37%), suggesting absence of strong selective pressure and limited genetic evolution of WNV during that period. Nevertheless, WNV has continued to diverge from precursor isolates as geographic distribution of the virus has expanded.

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