1887

Abstract

(TBEV), a member of the genus , has a positive-strand RNA genome containing a single open reading frame flanked by non-coding regions (NCRs). ticks (=307) were collected from vegetation in a natural TBEV focus in Belp, Switzerland. The presence and identity of the virus were determined by nested RT-PCR followed by sequencing of the 5′-terminal region that comprises the 5′ NCR and the capsid-encoding region (C). The presence of the western European TBEV subtype (W-TBEV) genome was detected in 14.3 % of the ticks. Nucleotide sequence analysis revealed a high variability of 55.5 %. In particular, four DNA fragments (CS ‘A’, CS ‘B’, the folding-stem structure and the start codon) showed substantial heterogeneity, which has the potential of compromising replication, translation and packaging of the viral genome. This variability may reflect a viral strategy to select the fittest RNA molecule to produce a viral infection in the different vertebrate hosts that may be encountered by the ticks. It may also indicate a possible ancient introduction of TBEV to the Belp site. In addition, it may contribute to explaining the annual low incidence of tick-borne encephalitis in the natural focus of Belp, despite the high prevalence of TBEV genomes in ticks.

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2006-08-01
2019-11-16
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