Equine encephalosis virus (EEV) is an orbivirus associated with a peracute illness of horses in southern Africa. The virus has now been partially purified for the first time and characterized on a molecular level. The virion is composed of 10 dsRNA segments and a protein capsid consisting of at least seven structural proteins that vary in from 36 000 to 120 000. Partial clones of six of the dsRNA segments of EEV serotype Cascara were obtained and analysed for possible use as serotype-specific or group-specific probes in the detection of EEV dsRNA. Cloned fragments of genome segments 3, 8 and 10 were found to show high conservation of these segments, hybridizing to dsRNA from the six EEV serotypes under conditions that indicated more than 90% sequence homology. The genome segment 2-specific probe did not hybridize with dsRNA from any of the other EEV serotypes, suggesting that this segment encodes the serotype-specific antigen of EEV. Cross-hybridization of probes from genome segments 3 and 5 with dsRNA from bluetongue virus (BTV), epizootic haemorrhagic disease virus (EHDV) and African horse sickness virus (AHSV) indicated that EEV is more closely related to BTV and EHDV than to AHSV. Both probes can be used to distinguish between EEV and AHSV dsRNA.

Keyword(s): EEV , genomic probes and orbiviruses

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