Genetic Stability Among Temporally and Geographically Diverse Isolates of Barmah Forest Virus

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  • Department of Microbiology, University of Queensland, Department of Microbiology, University of Western Australia, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
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An increase in the incidence of polyarthritis caused by Barmah Forest (BF) virus, and its recent emergence into Western Australia, prompted a study of the molecular epidemiology of this Australian mosquito-borne alphavirus. The nucleotide sequence of a 500-basepair region of the 3′ end of the envelope (E2) gene of the prototype BF virus strain (BH2193) was compared with other members of the alphavirus genus, and to a panel of isolates of BF virus collected more for than 20 years from different geographic regions of Australia. The BF virus was shown to be genetically distinct from other members of the alphavirus genus. A high degree of sequence homology (98–100%) was found between the BF isolates, with no evidence of geographic or temporal divergence. This nucleotide homogeneity was similar to that observed with other Australian mosquito-borne viruses with avian vertebrate hosts, such as Sindbis, Murray Valley, and Kunjin viruses, but it contrasts to the heterogeneity reported for Ross River virus, an alphavirus with mammalian vertebrate hosts.