Sequence analysis of part of the fusion protein gene from recent isolates of rinderpest virus revealed that distinct lineages of the virus exist which reflect the geographical location of their isolation in Africa and Asia. Current strains circulating in Kenya and Sudan were most similar, both in terms of nucleotide sequence and pathogenic nature, to viruses isolated in Egypt and in Nigeria in 1983/1984 and they were quite distinct from an East African isolate (RBT-1) from the 1960s. Two older isolates of the virus, the Japanese avianized/lapinized vaccine strain dating from the 1930s and the Old Kabete strain dating from 1911, each differed considerably from the other viruses. The sequence data were derived from the region where the precursor protein is cleaved to yield the biologically active F/F heterodimer; all strains analysed had a highly basic connecting peptide which is required for efficient cleavage by endogenous host cell proteases. No correlation was found between amino acid changes at this site and the rinderpest virus pathogenicity unlike the association reported for Newcastle disease virus.


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