Reevaluation of the Western Equine Encephalitis Antigenic Complex of Alphaviruses (Family Togaviridae) as Determined by Neutralization Tests

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  • Division of Vector-Borne Viral Diseases, Center for Infectious Diseases, Centers for Disease Control, Public Health Service, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, P.O. Box 2087, Fort Collins, Colorado 80525-2087

Fourteen viruses closely related to the Fleming strain of western equine encephalitis (WEE) virus were cross-tested by serum dilution-plaque reduction neutralization. The results demonstrate that strains McMillan, R-43738, AG80-646, BeAr 102091, and Y62-33 are subtypes or varieties of western equine encephalitis virus strain Fleming. Ockelbo, Kyzylagach, and Babanki are subtypes of the prototype strain (EgAr 339) of Sindbis virus. Fort Morgan and Buggy Creek viruses are closely related to each other, whereas Highlands J and Aura viruses are distinct from other members of this antigenic complex. There appear to be parallels between geographic distribution and antigenic relatedness. We hypothesize that birds, the principal vertebrate hosts for these viruses, spread the progenitor viruses north and south and from continent to contient. Viruses of the WEE complex with lesser antigenic differences may develop in discrete ecologic conditions.

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