Comparison of complete genome sequences of dog rabies viruses isolated from China and Mexico reveals key amino acid changes that may be associated with virus replication and virulence
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Rabies is a global problem, but its impact and prevalence vary across different regions. In some areas, such as parts of Africa and Asia, the virus is prevalent in the domestic dog population, leading to epidemic waves and large numbers of human fatalities. In other regions, such as the Americas, the virus predominates in wildlife and bat populations, with sporadic spillover into domestic animals. In this work, we attempted to investigate whether these distinct environments led to selective pressures that result in measurable changes within the genome at the amino acid level. To this end, we collected and sequenced the full genome of two isolates from divergent environments. The first isolate (DRV-AH08) was from China, where the virus is present in the dog population and the country is experiencing a serious epidemic. The second isolate (DRV-Mexico) was taken from Mexico, where the virus is present in both wildlife and domestic dog populations, but at low levels as a consequence of an effective vaccination program. We then combined and compared these with other full genome sequences to identify distinct amino acid changes that might be associated with environment. Phylogenetic analysis identified strain DRV-AH08 as belonging to the China-I lineage, which has emerged to become the dominant lineage in the current epidemic. The Mexico strain was placed in the D11 Mexico lineage, associated with the West USA-Mexico border clade. Amino acid sequence analysis identified only 17 amino acid differences in the N, G and L proteins. These differences may be associated with virus replication and virulence–for example, the short incubation period observed in the current epidemic in China.
KeywordsRabies Rabies Virus Amino Acid Difference Short Incubation Period RABV Strain
This work was supported partially by Public Health Service grant AI-051560 from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, USA, and a grant from the Natural Science Foundation of China (30928020).
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