Genetic and phenotypic characterization of the newly described insect flavivirus, Kamiti River virus
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We have described in the accompanying paper by Sang, et al., (, Arch Virol 2003, in press) the isolation and identification of a new flavivirus, Kamiti River virus (KRV), from Ae. macintoshi mosquitoes that were collected as larvae and pupae from flooded dambos in Central Province, Kenya. Among known flaviviruses, KRV was shown to be most similar to, but genetically and phenotypically distinct from, Cell fusing agent virus (CFAV). KRV was provisionally identified as an insect-only flavivirus that fails to replicate in vertebrate cells or in mice. We report here the further characterization of KRV. Growth in cell culture was compared to that of CFAV; although growth kinetics were similar, KRV did not cause the cell fusion that is characteristic of CFAV infection. The KRV genome was found to be 11,375 nucleotides in length, containing a single open reading frame encoding 10 viral proteins. Likely polyprotein cleavage sites were identified, which were most similar to those of CFAV and were comparable to those of other flaviviruses. Sequence identity with other flaviviruses was low; maximum identity was with CFAV. Possible terminal secondary structures for the 5′ and 3′ non-coding regions (NCR) were similar to those predicted for other flaviviruses. Whereas CFAV was isolated from insect cells in the laboratory, the isolation of KRV demonstrates the presence of an insect-only flavivirus in nature and raises questions regarding potential interactions between this virus and other mosquito-borne viruses in competent vector populations. Additionally, this virus will be an important tool in future studies to determine markers associated with flavivirus host specificity.
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