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J Virol. 2011 Sep;85(17):8789-97. doi: 10.1128/JVI.02623-10. Epub 2011 Jun 29.

Replacement of previously circulating respiratory syncytial virus subtype B strains with the BA genotype in South Africa.

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Department of Medical Virology, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, Gauteng, South Africa.


Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a major cause of bronchiolitis and pneumonia in infants, the immunocompromised, and the elderly in both developed and developing countries. Reinfections are common, and G protein variability is one mechanism to overcome herd immunity. This is illustrated by the appearance of the BA genotype with a 60-nucleotide duplication dominating the subtype B genotypes in epidemics worldwide. To investigate the evolution of subtype B in South Africa since 2002, the genetic variability of the G protein was analyzed in all recent strains isolated over 4 years (2006 to 2009) in South African hospitals. Bayesian analysis revealed a replacement of all subtype B genotypes previously identified in South Africa with the BA genotype since 2006, while subtype A genotypes identified in previous years are still circulating. Compared to BA strains from other countries, the evolutionary rate of the South African BA genotype was shown to be 2.305 × 10(-3) nucleotide substitutions/site/year and drift was evident. The most recent common ancestor (MRCA) of the South African BA viruses was determined to date back to 1996. All South African BA isolates clustered with the BA-IV subgenotype, and the appearance of new subgenotypes within this branch may occur if drift continues. Sequencing of the complete G protein of selected South African strains revealed an additional 6-nucleotide deletion. Acquisition of the 60-nucleotide duplication appeared to have improved the fitness of this virus, and more recent subtype B strains may need to be included in experimental vaccines to evaluate their efficacy in the current setting of evolved circulating strains.

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