Department of Microbiology, Faculty of Medicine, Chiang Mai University, School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Henry M. Jackson Foundation, Department of Pediatrics, Children's Hospital, Ministry of Public Health, Virus Research Institute, Department of Medical Sciences, Ministry of Public Health, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Cocirculation of two genetic subtypes of dengue serotype 2 viruses was first observed in the 1980 epidemic season in Thailand. To further delineate the evolutionary history and the contribution of these subtypes to subsequent epidemics, we determined the envelope glycoprotein gene sequence of 20 dengue serotype 2 viruses isolated from infected patients during 1987 and compared them with those derived from earlier years. Subtype IIIa strains represented the majority (18 of 19) of dengue type 2 viruses derived from Bangkok metropolitan area, whereas all three strains from a province in the northeastern region belonged to subtype IIIb, indicating uneven local distribution of dengue subtypes within the same year. Three types of sequence variation were identified in both subtypes: substitutions that were unique to individual strains; substitutions that were shared among all subtype IIIa or IIIb viruses of both the 1980 and 1987 epidemics; and those that were shared only among all subtypes IIIa or IIIb viruses of the 1987 epidemic, but were absent from the corresponding subtypes of 1980. While the first and second types of substitution were indicative of the most recent random mutations and previous mutations that had been fixed in virus populations, respectively, the third type suggested possible occurrence of a genetic bottleneck and subsequent expansion of one or a limited number of subtype IIIa strains in Bangkok between 1980 and 1987. Immunoblot analysis of intracellular NS1 antigen with anti-NS1 monoclonal antibodies also revealed antigenic heterogeneity of the NS1 protein that correlated with the subdivision based on envelope protein variation.