Comparison and phylogenetic analysis of cowpox viruses isolated from cats and humans in Fennoscandia
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Cowpox virus (CPXV), a member of the genus Orthopoxvirus (OPV), has reservoirs in small mammals and may cause disease in humans, felidae and other animals. In this study we compared CPXVs isolated from humans and cats in Fennoscandia by restriction enzyme and DNA sequence analysis. The HindIII restriction profiles clearly distinguished geographically distinct CPXV isolates, whereas only minor differences were found between the profiles of geographically linked isolates. The complete gene sequences encoding the cytokine response modifier B, the hemagglutinin and the Chinese hamster ovary host range protein were determined for the same isolates and included in phylogenetic analysis. By including representative OPV sequences from GenBank, detailed comparative analyses were performed showing pronounced heterogeneity among CPXVs compared to members of other OPV species. However, a close relationship between the Norwegian (3 of 4 isolates) and Swedish isolates was detected, whereas the isolate from Finland was more closely related to a Russian isolate for all three genes compared. We infer that the investigated CPXVs have distinct evolutionary histories in different rodent lineages.