Arenaviruses I

Volume 262 of the series Current Topics in Microbiology and Immunology pp 1-24

Molecular Phylogeny of the Arenaviruses

  • J. C. S. CleggAffiliated withCentre for Applied Microbiology and Research

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Molecular approaches to the identification of viruses and the delineation of relationships among them has emerged as an important tool in virology only within the past 10–15 years. The rapidity and precision with which virus genetic sequences can now be acquired and the development of sophisticated methods for the phylogenetic analysis of this new universe of data are leading to informative new insights into the biology, origin and spread of many infectious diseases (see Holmes 1998 and Hungnes et al. 2000 for general overviews). To take a single example, current theories about the origins and timescale of the AIDS pandemic as the result of transmission events from other primate species to humans are based to a large extent on the evidence of sequence-based phylogenetic analyses (Zhu et al. 1998; Gao et al. 1999; Korber et al. 2000). The absence of material in the fossil record which might illuminate the past history of viruses and viral infections is now to some extent being overcome by this new-found ability to extract quasi-archaeological data from the sequences of present-day viruses.