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Genetic Diversity of Venezuelan Alphaviruses and Circulation of a Venezuelan Equine Encephalitis Virus Subtype IAB Strain During an Interepizootic Period

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  • Edificio de Sanidad Animal, Laboratorio de Arbovirus, Centro Nacional de Investigaciones Agropecuarias/Instituto Nacional de Investigaciones Agrícolas, Aragua, Venezuela; Laboratorio de Virología Molecular, Centro de Microbiología y Biología Celular, Instituto Venezolano de Investigaciones Científicas, Caracas, Venezuela; Institute for Human Infections and Immunity and Department of Pathology, University Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, Texas
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Several species of alphaviruses have been previously described in the Americas, some of which are associated with encephalitis and others are associated with arthralgia. Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus (VEEV) and eastern equine encephalitis virus (EEEV) are endemic to Venezuela, with the former being responsible for major outbreaks of severe and often fatal disease in animals and humans. The aim of this study was to analyze the genetic diversity of Venezuelan alphaviruses isolated during two decades (1973–1999) of surveillance in northern Venezuela. Phylogenetic analysis indicated the circulation of a VEEV subtype IAB strain 8 years after the last reported outbreak. Thirteen strains within two subclades of South American lineage III of EEEV were also found in Venezuela. Considerable genetic variability was observed among Venezuelan Una virus strains, which were widely distributed among the clades. The first Venezuelan Mayaro sequence was also characterized.

Author Notes

* Address correspondence to Gladys Medina, Edificio de Sanidad Animal, Laboratorio de Arbovirus-CENIAP/INIA, Av. Las Delicias Maracay, Estado Aragua, Venezuela. E-mail: glmedina@inia.gob.ve

Financial support: This work was supported by Grant S1-2002000338 from Fondo Nacional de Ciencia y Ttecnologìa (FONACIT), Organización Panamericana de la Salud (OPS) Grant 2003, and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency under an Interagency Agreement with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory through Contract DTRA10027IA-2359–BASIC. A.J.A. is supported by the James W. McLaughlin Endowment Fund.

Authors' addresses: Gladys Medina, INIA, CENIAP, Maracay, Aragua, Venezuela, E-mail: gladicitamedina1@hotmail.com. Domingo J. Garzaro, Miguel Barrios, and Flor H. Pujol, IVIC, CMBC, Caracas, Miranda, Venezuela, E-mails: dgarzaro@gmail.com, mbarrios_3709@hotmail.com, and fhpujol@gmail.com. Albert J. Auguste, Institute for Human Infections and Immunity and Department of Pathology, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, TX, E-mail: aj1augus@utmb.edu. Scott C. Weaver, Department of Pathology, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, TX, E-mail: sweaver@utmb.edu.

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