Porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus (PRRSV) ORF5 gene sequences were generated by RT–PCR from 55 field isolates collected in Illinois and eastern Iowa. Spatial and temporal patterns of genetic variation in the virus were examined on a local geographical scale in order to test the hypothesis that the genetic similarity of PRRSV isolates (measured as their percentage pairwise ORF5 nucleotide similarity) was positively correlated with their geographical proximity. Levels of genetic variability in the Illinois/eastern Iowa PRRSV sample were similar to levels of variability seen across broader geographical regions within North America. The genetic similarity of isolates did not correlate with their geographical distance. These results imply that the movement of PRRSV onto farms does not generally occur via distance-limited processes such as wind or wildlife vectors, but more typically occurs via the long-distance transport of animals or semen. Genetic distances between PRRSV isolates collected from the same farms at different times increased as the time separating the collection events increased. This result implies rapid movement of new genetic types of PRRSV into and out of farms. PRRSV ORF5 displayed a pattern of third-codon-position diversity bias that was not evident in a geographically comparable sample of pseudorabies virus (a swine alphaherpesvirus) gC gene sequences. This result provides evidence that PRRSV ORF5 is experiencing stabilizing selection against structural novelty. Despite high genetic variability at all geographical levels, PRRSV ORF5 nevertheless contained potentially antigenic regions that were invariant at the amino acid level. These regions should make effective vaccine targets if they prove to be immunogenic.


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