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1.  Sequence of a Complete Chicken BG Haplotype Shows Dynamic Expansion and Contraction of Two Gene Lineages with Particular Expression Patterns 
PLoS Genetics  2014;10(6):e1004417.
Many genes important in immunity are found as multigene families. The butyrophilin genes are members of the B7 family, playing diverse roles in co-regulation and perhaps in antigen presentation. In humans, a fixed number of butyrophilin genes are found in and around the major histocompatibility complex (MHC), and show striking association with particular autoimmune diseases. In chickens, BG genes encode homologues with somewhat different domain organisation. Only a few BG genes have been characterised, one involved in actin-myosin interaction in the intestinal brush border, and another implicated in resistance to viral diseases. We characterise all BG genes in B12 chickens, finding a multigene family organised as tandem repeats in the BG region outside the MHC, a single gene in the MHC (the BF-BL region), and another single gene on a different chromosome. There is a precise cell and tissue expression for each gene, but overall there are two kinds, those expressed by haemopoietic cells and those expressed in tissues (presumably non-haemopoietic cells), correlating with two different kinds of promoters and 5′ untranslated regions (5′UTR). However, the multigene family in the BG region contains many hybrid genes, suggesting recombination and/or deletion as major evolutionary forces. We identify BG genes in the chicken whole genome shotgun sequence, as well as by comparison to other haplotypes by fibre fluorescence in situ hybridisation, confirming dynamic expansion and contraction within the BG region. Thus, the BG genes in chickens are undergoing much more rapid evolution compared to their homologues in mammals, for reasons yet to be understood.
Author Summary
Many immune genes are multigene families, presumably in response to pathogen variation. Some multigene families undergo expansion and contraction, leading to copy number variation (CNV), presumably due to more intense selection. Recently, the butyrophilin family in humans and other mammals has come under scrutiny, due to genetic associations with autoimmune diseases as well as roles in immune co-regulation and antigen presentation. Butyrophilin genes exhibit allelic polymorphism, but gene number appears stable within a species. We found that the BG homologues in chickens are very different, with great changes between haplotypes. We characterised one haplotype in detail, showing that there are two single BG genes, one on chromosome 2 and the other in the major histocompatibility complex (BF-BL region) on chromosome 16, and a family of BG genes in a tandem array in the BG region nearby. These genes have specific expression in cells and tissues, but overall are expressed in either haemopoietic cells or tissues. The two singletons have relatively stable evolutionary histories, but the BG region undergoes dynamic expansion and contraction, with the production of hybrid genes. Thus, chicken BG genes appear to evolve much more quickly than their closest homologs in mammals, presumably due to increased pressure from pathogens.
doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1004417
PMCID: PMC4046983  PMID: 24901252
2.  Antigenic and genetic characterization of a divergent African virus, Ikoma lyssavirus 
The Journal of General Virology  2014;95(Pt 5):1025-1032.
In 2009, a novel lyssavirus (subsequently named Ikoma lyssavirus, IKOV) was detected in the brain of an African civet (Civettictis civetta) with clinical rabies in the Serengeti National Park of Tanzania. The degree of nucleotide divergence between the genome of IKOV and those of other lyssaviruses predicted antigenic distinction from, and lack of protection provided by, available rabies vaccines. In addition, the index case was considered likely to be an incidental spillover event, and therefore the true reservoir of IKOV remained to be identified. The advent of sensitive molecular techniques has led to a rapid increase in the discovery of novel viruses. Detecting viral sequence alone, however, only allows for prediction of phenotypic characteristics and not their measurement. In the present study we describe the in vitro and in vivo characterization of IKOV, demonstrating that it is (1) pathogenic by peripheral inoculation in an animal model, (2) antigenically distinct from current rabies vaccine strains and (3) poorly neutralized by sera from humans and animals immunized against rabies. In a laboratory mouse model, no protection was elicited by a licensed rabies vaccine. We also investigated the role of bats as reservoirs of IKOV. We found no evidence for infection among 483 individuals of at least 13 bat species sampled across sites in the Serengeti and Southern Kenya.
doi:10.1099/vir.0.061952-0
PMCID: PMC3983756  PMID: 24496827
3.  Detection and genetic characterization of Seoul Virus from commensal brown rats in France 
Virology Journal  2014;11:32.
Background
Hantaviruses are single-stranded RNA viruses, which are transmitted to humans primarily via inhalation of aerosolised virus in contaminated rodent urine and faeces. Whilst infected reservoir hosts are asymptomatic, human infections can lead to two clinical manifestations, haemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome (HFRS) and hantavirus cardiopulmonary syndrome (HCPS), with varying degrees of clinical severity. The incidence of rodent and human cases of Seoul virus (SEOV) in Europe has been considered to be low, and speculated to be driven by the sporadic introduction of infected brown rats (Rattus norvegicus) via ports.
Methods
Between October 2010 and March 2012, 128 brown rats were caught at sites across the Lyon region in France.
Results
SEOV RNA was detected in the lungs of 14% (95% CI 8.01 – 20.11) of brown rats tested using a nested pan-hantavirus RT-PCR (polymerase gene). Phylogenetic analysis supports the inclusion of the Lyon SEOV within Lineage 7 with SEOV strains originating from SE Asia and the previously reported French & Belgian SEOV strains. Sequence data obtained from the recent human SEOV case (Replonges) was most similar to that obtained from one brown rat trapped in a public park in Lyon city centre. We obtained significantly improved recovery of virus genome sequence directly from SEOV infected lung material using a simple viral enrichment approach and NGS technology.
Conclusions
The detection of SEOV in two wild caught brown rats in the UK and the multiple detection of SEOV infected brown rats in the Lyon region of France, suggests that SEOV is circulating in European brown rats. Under-reporting and difficulties in identifying the hantaviruses associated with HFRS may mask the public health impact of SEOV in Europe.
doi:10.1186/1743-422X-11-32
PMCID: PMC3944734  PMID: 24555484
Hantavirus; SEOV; France; Brown rat; Rattus norvegicus; Next generation sequencing; Viral enrichment
4.  Diversity and Epidemiology of Mokola Virus 
Mokola virus (MOKV) appears to be exclusive to Africa. Although the first isolates were from Nigeria and other Congo basin countries, all reports over the past 20 years have been from southern Africa. Previous phylogenetic studies analyzed few isolates or used partial gene sequence for analysis since limited sequence information is available for MOKV and the isolates were distributed among various laboratories. The complete nucleoprotein, phosphoprotein, matrix and glycoprotein genes of 18 MOKV isolates in various laboratories were sequenced either using partial or full genome sequencing using pyrosequencing and a phylogenetic analysis was undertaken. The results indicated that MOKV isolates from the Republic of South Africa, Zimbabwe, Central African Republic and Nigeria clustered according to geographic origin irrespective of the genes used for phylogenetic analysis, similar to that observed with Lagos bat virus. A Bayesian Markov-Chain-Monte-Carlo- (MCMC) analysis revealed the age of the most recent common ancestor (MRCA) of MOKV to be between 279 and 2034 years depending on the genes used. Generally, all MOKV isolates showed a similar pattern at the amino acid sites considered influential for viral properties.
Author Summary
According to the World Health Organization, rabies is considered both a neglected zoonotic and tropical disease. Among all the lyssavirus species known to exist today, Mokola virus is unique and appears to be exclusive to Africa. In contrast to all other known virus species in the genus Lyssavirus of the family Rhabdoviridae, its reservoir host has not been identified yet. As only limited sequence information is available, this study significantly contributes to the understanding of the genetic diversity and relatedness of Mokola viruses. In a collective approach, the complete nucleoprotein, phosphoprotein, matrix, and glycoprotein genes of all Mokola viruses isolated to date were sequenced in various rabies laboratories across the world. A phylogenetic analysis was undertaken and the most recent common ancestor was determined. Subsequently, results were linked to epidemiological background data. We also conducted a comparative study of distinct antigenic sites considered influential for viral properties within those genes.
doi:10.1371/journal.pntd.0002511
PMCID: PMC3812115  PMID: 24205423
5.  Evolutionary History and Phylogeography of Rabies Viruses Associated with Outbreaks in Trinidad 
Bat rabies is an emerging disease of public health significance in the Americas. The Caribbean island of Trinidad experiences periodic outbreaks within the livestock population. We performed molecular characterisation of Trinidad rabies virus (RABV) and used a Bayesian phylogeographic approach to investigate the extent to which outbreaks are a result of in situ evolution versus importation of virus from the nearby South American mainland. Trinidadian RABV sequences were confirmed as bat variant and clustered with Desmodus rotundus (vampire bat) related sequences. They fell into two largely temporally defined lineages designated Trinidad I and II. The Trinidad I lineage which included sequences from 1997–2000 (all but two of which were from the northeast of the island) was most closely related to RABV from Ecuador (2005, 2007), French Guiana (1990) and Venezuela (1993, 1994). Trinidad II comprised sequences from the southwest of the island, which clustered into two groups: Trinidad IIa, which included one sequence each from 2000 and 2007, and Trinidad IIb including all 2010 sequences. The Trinidad II sequences were most closely related to sequences from Brazil (1999, 2004) and Uruguay (2007, 2008). Phylogeographic analyses support three separate RABV introductions from the mainland from which each of the three Trinidadian lineages arose. The estimated dates for the introductions and subsequent lineage expansions suggest periods of in situ evolution within Trinidad following each introduction. These data also indicate co-circulation of Trinidad lineage I and IIa during 2000. In light of these findings and the likely vampire bat origin of Trinidadian RABV, further studies should be conducted to investigate the relationship between RABV spatiotemporal dynamics and vampire bat population ecology, in particular any movement between the mainland and Trinidad.
Author Summary
The Caribbean island of Trinidad experiences periodic rabies virus (RABV) outbreaks within the livestock population. In this study, we inferred the evolutionary history of RABV in the Americas and reconstructed past patterns of RABV geographic spread in order to address the question of whether Trinidadian outbreaks arise from locally maintained RABV or are the result of virus importation from the mainland (presumably via infected bats). Our results provide statistical support for three importation events that gave rise to each of three Trinidadian vampire bat-associated lineages identified in the study. They also indicate limited periods of in situ evolution within Trinidad following each of these introductions. The results also support Mexico and Brazil as major epicenters for the expansion of RABV associated with vampire bats throughout the Americas and consequently to Trinidad. The findings of our study are particularly relevant to local RABV monitoring and control. In addition to justifying vampire bats as the main target for active rabies surveillance and control activities in Trinidad, they suggest that more intense surveillance of regions that lie close to the mainland may be warranted. Finally, in light of these findings, further studies should be conducted to investigate the relationship between RABV spatiotemporal dynamics and vampire bat population ecology.
doi:10.1371/journal.pntd.0002365
PMCID: PMC3749974  PMID: 23991230
6.  Louping Ill Virus Genome Sequence Derived from the Spinal Cord of an Infected Lamb 
Genome Announcements  2013;1(4):e00454-13.
Louping ill virus (LIV) is a zoonotic virus causing fatal encephalitis in young sheep and grouse. We have recovered the complete genome sequence from a spinal cord sample prepared from a lamb that was naturally infected with LIV. This is only the second LIV genome sequence reported and the first prepared from a clinical sample.
doi:10.1128/genomeA.00454-13
PMCID: PMC3715664  PMID: 23868122
7.  Next generation sequencing of viral RNA genomes 
BMC Genomics  2013;14:444.
Background
With the advent of Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) technologies, the ability to generate large amounts of sequence data has revolutionized the genomics field. Most RNA viruses have relatively small genomes in comparison to other organisms and as such, would appear to be an obvious success story for the use of NGS technologies. However, due to the relatively low abundance of viral RNA in relation to host RNA, RNA viruses have proved relatively difficult to sequence using NGS technologies. Here we detail a simple, robust methodology, without the use of ultra-centrifugation, filtration or viral enrichment protocols, to prepare RNA from diagnostic clinical tissue samples, cell monolayers and tissue culture supernatant, for subsequent sequencing on the Roche 454 platform.
Results
As representative RNA viruses, full genome sequence was successfully obtained from known lyssaviruses belonging to recognized species and a novel lyssavirus species using these protocols and assembling the reads using de novo algorithms. Furthermore, genome sequences were generated from considerably less than 200 ng RNA, indicating that manufacturers’ minimum template guidance is conservative. In addition to obtaining genome consensus sequence, a high proportion of SNPs (Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms) were identified in the majority of samples analyzed.
Conclusions
The approaches reported clearly facilitate successful full genome lyssavirus sequencing and can be universally applied to discovering and obtaining consensus genome sequences of RNA viruses from a variety of sources.
doi:10.1186/1471-2164-14-444
PMCID: PMC3708773  PMID: 23822119
Next generation sequencing; Pyrosequencing; Lyssavirus; Genome; RNA; Virus
8.  A Step Forward in Molecular Diagnostics of Lyssaviruses – Results of a Ring Trial among European Laboratories 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(3):e58372.
Rabies is a lethal and notifiable zoonotic disease for which diagnostics have to meet the highest standards. In recent years, an evolution was especially seen in molecular diagnostics with a wide variety of different detection methods published. Therefore, a first international ring trial specifically designed on the use of reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) for detection of lyssavirus genomic RNA was organized. The trial focussed on assessment and comparison of the performance of conventional and real-time assays. In total, 16 European laboratories participated. All participants were asked to investigate a panel of defined lyssavirus RNAs, consisting of Rabies virus (RABV) and European bat lyssavirus 1 and 2 (EBLV-1 and -2) RNA samples, with systems available in their laboratory.
The ring trial allowed the important conclusion that conventional RT-PCR assays were really robust assays tested with a high concordance between different laboratories and assays. The real-time RT-PCR system by Wakeley et al. (2005) in combination with an intercalating dye, and the combined version by Hoffmann and co-workers (2010) showed good sensitivity for the detection of all RABV samples included in this test panel. Furthermore, all used EBLV-specific assays, real-time RT-PCRs as well as conventional RT-PCR systems, were shown to be suitable for a reliable detection of EBLVs. It has to be mentioned that differences were seen in the performance between both the individual RT-PCR systems and the laboratories. Laboratories which used more than one molecular assay for testing the sample panel always concluded a correct sample result.
Due to the markedly high genetic diversity of lyssaviruses, the application of different assays in diagnostics is needed to achieve a maximum of diagnostic accuracy. To improve the knowledge about the diagnostic performance proficiency testing at an international level is recommended before using lyssavirus molecular diagnostics e.g. for confirmatory testing.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0058372
PMCID: PMC3592807  PMID: 23520505
9.  Complete Genome Sequence of Ikoma Lyssavirus 
Journal of Virology  2012;86(18):10242-10243.
Lyssaviruses (family Rhabdoviridae) constitute one of the most important groups of viral zoonoses globally. All lyssaviruses cause the disease rabies, an acute progressive encephalitis for which, once symptoms occur, there is no effective cure. Currently available vaccines are highly protective against the predominantly circulating lyssavirus species. Using next-generation sequencing technologies, we have obtained the whole-genome sequence for a novel lyssavirus, Ikoma lyssavirus (IKOV), isolated from an African civet in Tanzania displaying clinical signs of rabies. Genetically, this virus is the most divergent within the genus Lyssavirus. Characterization of the genome will help to improve our understanding of lyssavirus diversity and enable investigation into vaccine-induced immunity and protection.
doi:10.1128/JVI.01628-12
PMCID: PMC3446578  PMID: 22923801
10.  Rabies in Iraq: Trends in Human Cases 2001–2010 and Characterisation of Animal Rabies Strains from Baghdad 
Control of rabies requires a consistent supply of dependable resources, constructive cooperation between veterinary and public health authorities, and systematic surveillance. These are challenging in any circumstances, but particularly during conflict. Here we describe available human rabies surveillance data from Iraq, results of renewed sampling for rabies in animals, and the first genetic characterisation of circulating rabies strains from Iraq. Human rabies is notifiable, with reported cases increasing since 2003, and a marked increase in Baghdad between 2009 and 2010. These changes coincide with increasing numbers of reported dog bites. There is no laboratory confirmation of disease or virus characterisation and no systematic surveillance for rabies in animals. To address these issues, brain samples were collected from domestic animals in the greater Baghdad region and tested for rabies. Three of 40 brain samples were positive using the fluorescent antibody test and hemi-nested RT-PCR for rabies virus (RABV). Bayesian phylogenetic analysis using partial nucleoprotein gene sequences derived from the samples demonstrated the viruses belong to a single virus variant and share a common ancestor with viruses from neighbouring countries, 22 (95% HPD 14–32) years ago. These include countries lying to the west, north and east of Iraq, some of which also have other virus variants circulating concurrently. These results suggest possible multiple introductions of rabies into the Middle East, and regular trans-boundary movement of disease. Although 4000 years have passed since the original description of disease consistent with rabies, animals and humans are still dying of this preventable and neglected zoonosis.
Author Summary
Control of rabies requires cooperation between government departments, consistent funding, and an understanding of the epidemiology of the disease obtained through surveillance. Here we describe human rabies surveillance data from Iraq and the results of renewed sampling for rabies in animals. In Iraq, it is obligatory by law to report cases of human rabies. These reports were collated and analysed. Reported cases have increased since 2003, with a marked increase in Baghdad 2009–2010. There is no system for detecting rabies in animals and the strains circulating in Iraq have not previously been characterized. To address this, samples were collected from domestic animals in Baghdad and tested for rabies. Three out of 40 were positive for rabies virus. Comparison of part of the viral genetic sequence with other viruses from the region demonstrated that the viruses from Iraq are more closely related to each other than those from surrounding countries, but diverged from viruses isolated in neighbouring countries approximately 22 (95% HPD 14–32) years ago. Although 4000 years have passed since the original description of disease consistent with rabies, animals and humans are still dying of this preventable and neglected zoonosis.
doi:10.1371/journal.pntd.0002075
PMCID: PMC3585036  PMID: 23469303
11.  Interspecies protein substitution to investigate the role of the lyssavirus glycoprotein 
The Journal of General Virology  2013;94(Pt 2):284-292.
European bat lyssaviruses type 1 (EBLV-1) and type 2 (EBLV-2) circulate within bat populations throughout Europe and are capable of causing disease indistinguishable from that caused by classical rabies virus (RABV). However, the determinants of viral fitness and pathogenicity are poorly understood. Full-length genome clones based on the highly attenuated, non-neuroinvasive, RABV vaccine strain (SAD-B19) were constructed with the glycoprotein (G) of either SAD-B19 (SN), of EBLV-1 (SN-1) or EBLV-2 (SN-2). In vitro characterization of SN-1 and SN-2 in comparison to wild-type EBLVs demonstrated that the substitution of G affected the final virus titre and antigenicity. In vivo, following peripheral infection with a high viral dose (104 f.f.u.), animals infected with SN-1 had reduced survivorship relative to infection with SN, resulting in survivorship similar to animals infected with EBLV-1. The histopathological changes and antigen distribution observed for SN-1 were more representative of those observed with SN than with EBLV-1. EBLV-2 was unable to achieve a titre equivalent to that of the other viruses. Therefore, a reduced-dose experiment (103 f.f.u.) was undertaken in vivo to compare EBLV-2 and SN-2, which resulted in 100 % survivorship for all recombinant viruses (SN, SN-1 and SN-2) while clinical disease developed in mice infected with the EBLVs. These data indicate that interspecies replacement of G has an effect on virus titre in vitro, probably as a result of suboptimal G–matrix protein interactions, and influences the survival outcome following a peripheral challenge with a high virus titre in mice.
doi:10.1099/vir.0.048827-0
PMCID: PMC3709617  PMID: 23100360
12.  Ikoma Lyssavirus, Highly Divergent Novel Lyssavirus in an African Civet1 
Emerging Infectious Diseases  2012;18(4):664-667.
Evidence in support of a novel lyssavirus was obtained from brain samples of an African civet in Tanzania. Results of phylogenetic analysis of nucleoprotein gene sequences from representative Lyssavirus species and this novel lyssavirus provided strong empirical evidence that this is a new lyssavirus species, designated Ikoma lyssavirus.
doi:10.3201/eid1804.111553
PMCID: PMC3309678  PMID: 22469151
Tanzania; African civet; rabies virus; West Caucasian bat virus; rabies virus; viruses; Lyssavirus; lyssaviruses; Ikoma lyssavirus; novel rabies virus; novel lyssavirus
13.  Emerging Technologies for the Detection of Rabies Virus: Challenges and Hopes in the 21st Century 
The diagnosis of rabies is routinely based on clinical and epidemiological information, especially when exposures are reported in rabies-endemic countries. Diagnostic tests using conventional assays that appear to be negative, even when undertaken late in the disease and despite the clinical diagnosis, have a tendency, at times, to be unreliable. These tests are rarely optimal and entirely dependent on the nature and quality of the sample supplied. In the course of the past three decades, the application of molecular biology has aided in the development of tests that result in a more rapid detection of rabies virus. These tests enable viral strain identification from clinical specimens. Currently, there are a number of molecular tests that can be used to complement conventional tests in rabies diagnosis. Indeed the challenges in the 21st century for the development of rabies diagnostics are not of a technical nature; these tests are available now. The challenges in the 21st century for diagnostic test developers are two-fold: firstly, to achieve internationally accepted validation of a test that will then lead to its acceptance by organisations globally. Secondly, the areas of the world where such tests are needed are mainly in developing regions where financial and logistical barriers prevent their implementation. Although developing countries with a poor healthcare infrastructure recognise that molecular-based diagnostic assays will be unaffordable for routine use, the cost/benefit ratio should still be measured. Adoption of rapid and affordable rabies diagnostic tests for use in developing countries highlights the importance of sharing and transferring technology through laboratory twinning between the developed and the developing countries. Importantly for developing countries, the benefit of molecular methods as tools is the capability for a differential diagnosis of human diseases that present with similar clinical symptoms. Antemortem testing for human rabies is now possible using molecular techniques. These barriers are not insurmountable and it is our expectation that if such tests are accepted and implemented where they are most needed, they will provide substantial improvements for rabies diagnosis and surveillance. The advent of molecular biology and new technological initiatives that combine advances in biology with other disciplines will support the development of techniques capable of high throughput testing with a low turnaround time for rabies diagnosis.
doi:10.1371/journal.pntd.0000530
PMCID: PMC2745658  PMID: 19787037
14.  Investigating antibody neutralization of lyssaviruses using lentiviral pseudotypes: a cross-species comparison 
The Journal of General Virology  2008;89(Pt 9):2204-2213.
Cross-neutralization between rabies virus (RABV) and two European bat lyssaviruses (EBLV-1 and -2) was analysed using lentiviral pseudotypes as antigen vectors. Glycoprotein (G-protein) cDNA from RABV challenge virus standard-11 (CVS-11) and EBLV-1 and -2 were cloned and co-expressed with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) or murine leukemia virus (MLV) gag–pol and packageable green fluorescent protein (GFP) or luciferase reporter genes in human cells. The harvested lentiviral (HIV) vector infected over 40 % of baby hamster kidney (BHK) target cells, providing high-titre pseudotype stocks. Tests on blinded antibody-positive (n=15) and -negative (n=45) sera, predetermined by the fluorescent antibody virus neutralization (FAVN) test approved by the World Health Organization (WHO) and Office International des Epizooties (OIE), revealed that the CVS-11 pseudotype assay had 100 % concordance with FAVN and strongly correlated with neutralization titres (r2=0.89). Cross-neutralization tests using sera from RABV-vaccinated humans and animals on pseudotypes with CVS-11, EBLV-1 and EBLV-2 envelopes showed that the relative neutralization titres correlated broadly with the degree of G-protein diversity. Pseudotypes have three major advantages over live-virus neutralization tests: (i) they can be handled in low-biohazard-level laboratories; (ii) the use of reporter genes such as GFP or β-galactosidase will allow the assay to be undertaken at low cost in laboratories worldwide; (iii) each assay requires <10 μl serum. This robust microassay will improve our understanding of the protective humoral immunity that current rabies vaccines confer against emerging lyssaviruses, and will be applicable to surveillance studies, thus helping to control the spread of rabies.
doi:10.1099/vir.0.2008/000349-0
PMCID: PMC2886951  PMID: 18753230

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