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J Gen Virol. 2014 Sep;95(Pt 9):1945-57. doi: 10.1099/vir.0.066498-0. Epub 2014 Jun 4.

Genetic diversity of circulating Saffold viruses in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

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Department of Virology II, National Institute of Infectious Diseases, Tokyo, Japan.
The Meat Inspection Center of Kochi Prefecture, Kochi, Japan.
Department of Virology, National Institute of Health, Islamabad, Pakistan.
Department of Virology II, National Institute of Infectious Diseases, Tokyo, Japan


Human cardioviruses or Saffold viruses (SAFVs) of the family Picornaviridae are newly emerging viruses whose genetic and phenotypic diversity are poorly understood. We report here the full genome sequence of 11 SAFV genotypes from Pakistan and Afghanistan, along with a re-evaluation of their genetic diversity and recombination. We detected 88 SAFV from stool samples of 943 acute flaccid paralysis cases using reverse transcriptase-PCR targeting the 5' untranslated region (UTR). Further characterization based on complete VP1 analysis revealed 71 SAFVs belonging to 11 genotypes, including three previously unidentified genotypes. SAFV showed high genetic diversity and recombination based on phylogenetic, pairwise distance distributions and recombination mapping analyses performed herein. Phylogenies based on non-structural and UTRs were highly incongruent indicating frequent recombination events among SAFVs. We improved the SAFV genotyping classification criteria by determining new VP1 thresholds based on the principles used for the classification of enteroviruses. For genotype assignment, we propose a threshold of 23 and 10 % divergence for VP1 nucleotide and amino acid sequences, respectively. Other members of the species Theilovirus, such as Thera virus and Theiler's murine encephalomyelitis virus, are difficult to classify in the same species as SAFV, because they are genetically distinct from SAFV, with 41-56 % aa pairwise distances. The new genetic information obtained in this study will improve our understanding of the evolution and classification of SAFV.

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