The 17D-204 vaccine manufactured in South Africa (17D-204-SA) and a large plaque variant (17D-LP) derived from it were highly virulent in adult mice. The LD50 of 17D-LP virus was 0-2 p.f.u. for mice following intracerebral inoculation. In comparison, a medium plaque variant derived from 17D-LP, termed 17D-MP virus, was found to be attenuated in adult mice following the same route of inoculation (> 10(4) p.f.u./LD50). Replication of 17D-MP virus was decreased in infected mouse brains compared to 17D-LP virus. Also, 17D-MP virus was slightly temperature sensitive at 39.5 degrees C. Compared to its parent viruses, 17D-204-SA and 17D-LP, 17D-MP virus had one unique mutation at nt 8045 in the genome which resulted in a single amino acid substitution (Pro --> Ser) at residue 137 of the NS5 protein and appeared to be the mutation responsible for the attenuation of 17D-MP virus. This is the first time that altered virulence of a flavivirus caused by mutation in a non-structural protein gene, other than NS1, has been reported.


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