Genetic Characterization of Northwestern Colombian Chikungunya Virus Strains from the 2014–2015 Epidemic

Juan D. Rodas Grupo Centauro, Facultad de Ciencias Agrarias, Universidad de Antioquia, Medellín, Colombia.

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Tiffany Kautz Department of Pathology, Institute for Human Infections and Immunity, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, Texas.
Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Institute for Human Infections and Immunity, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, Texas.

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Erwin Camacho Grupo de Investigaciónes Biomédicas, Universidad de Sucre, Sincelejo, Colombia.

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Luis Paternina Grupo de Investigaciónes Biomédicas, Universidad de Sucre, Sincelejo, Colombia.

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Hilda Guzmán Department of Pathology, Institute for Human Infections and Immunity, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, Texas.

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Francisco J. Díaz Grupo de Inmunovirología, Facultad de Medicina, Universidad de Antioquia, Medellín, Colombia.

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Pedro Blanco Grupo de Investigaciónes Biomédicas, Universidad de Sucre, Sincelejo, Colombia.

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Robert Tesh Department of Pathology, Institute for Human Infections and Immunity, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, Texas.

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Scott C. Weaver Department of Pathology, Institute for Human Infections and Immunity, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, Texas.
Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Institute for Human Infections and Immunity, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, Texas.

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Chikungunya fever, an acute and often chronic arthralgic disease caused by the mosquito-borne alphavirus, chikungunya virus (CHIKV), spread into the Americas in late 2013. Since then it has caused epidemics in nearly all New World countries, the second largest being Colombia with over 450,000 suspected cases beginning in September, 2014, and focused in Bolivar Department in the north. We examined 32 human sera from suspected cases, including diverse age groups and both genders, and sequenced the CHIKV envelope glycoprotein genes, known determinants of vector host range. As expected for Asian lineage CHIKV strains, these isolates lacked known Aedes albopictus–adaptive mutations. All the Colombian strains were closely related to those from the Virgin Islands, Saint Lucia, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Brazil, consistent with a single, point-source introduction from the southeast Asia/Pacific region. Two substitutions in the E2 and E1 envelope glycoprotein genes were found in the Colombian strains, especially E1-K211E involving a residue shown previously to affect epistatically the penetrance of the E1-A226V A. albopictus–adaptive substitution. We also identified two amino acid substitutions unique to all American CHIKV sequences: E2-V368A and 6K-L20M. Only one codon, 6K-47, had a high nonsynonymous substitution rate suggesting positive selection.

Author Notes

* Address correspondence to Scott C. Weaver, University of Texas Medical Branch, 301 University Boulevard, Galveston, TX 77555-0610. E-mail: sweaver@utmb.edu

Financial support: This study was supported by NIH grants AI121452 and AI120942 (to SCW) and contract HHSN57220100040I/HHSN27200004/DO4 (to RBT), and the University of Antioquia sustainability program.

Authors' addresses: Juan D. Rodas, Sede de Investigación, Universidad de Antioquia, Medellin, Colombia, E-mail: jdavid.rodas@udea.edu.co. Tiffany Kautz, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, TX, E-mail: tfkautz@utmb.edu. Erwin Camacho, Luis Paternina, and Pedro Blanco, Grupo de Investigaciónes Biomédicas, Universidad de Sucre, Sincelejo, Colombia, E-mails: ercamachob@gmail.com, luispaterninat@gmail.com, and pblancot@gmail.com. Hilda Guzmán, Robert Tesh, and Scott C. Weaver, Department of Pathology, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, TX, E-mails: hguzman@utmb.edu, rtesh@utmb.edu, and sweaver@utmb.edu. Francisco J. Díaz, Grupo de Inmunovirología, Universidad de Antioquia, Medellin, Colombia, E-mail: francisco.diaz@udea.edu.co.

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