Sequence analysis was performed on 20 measles virus (MV) isolates from South Africa, five of which were obtained between 1986 and 1989 and 15 isolates collected during the 1994/95 measles season. A 590 bp fragment of the carboxyl terminus of the nucleocapsid (N) was amplified by PCR and subjected to sequence and phylogenetic analysis. Comparison of the South African MV strains with those previously described revealed that at least two distinct groups of wild-type (wt) MV exist, one of which has been circulating since 1986. The major genotype (I) was represented by the more recent isolates which showed three characteristic amino acid substitutions. Furthermore, three vaccine-like viruses with sequences very similar to the Edmonston wt strain were identified. Phylogenetic analysis of 100 MV strains allowed the assignment of new definitions for MV genotypes and subgroups. Employing these definitions, the majority of South African isolates analysed here formed a new genotype.


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