Human adenovirus species D type 19 (HAdV-D19) has been associated with epidemic keratoconjunctivitis (EKC), a highly inflammatory infection of the ocular surface. Confusion exists regarding the origins of HAdV-D19. The prototype virus (HAdV-D19p) does not cause EKC, while a virus identified later with the identical serologic determinant is a significant ocular pathogen.
High throughput genome sequencing and bioinformatics analysis were performed on HAdV-D19p and three HAdV-D19 EKC strains, and compared to the previously sequenced clinical isolate, HAdV-D19 (C) and HAdV-D37. Corneas of C57BL/6J mice were injected with HAdV-D19p, HAdV-D19 (C), or virus-free buffer, and inflammation assessed by clinical examination, flow cytometry, and cytokine ELISA. Confocal microscopy and real-time PCR of infected corneal cell cultures were used to test viral entry.
HAdV-D19 (C) and the other clinical EKC isolates showed nearly 100% sequence identity. EKC strains diverged from HAdV-D19p in the penton base, E3, and fiber transcription units. Simplot analysis showed recombination between EKC-associated HAdV-D19 with HAdV-D37, HAdV-D22, and HAdV-D19p, the latter contributing only the hexon gene, the principal serum neutralization determinant. HAdV-D19p induced stromal keratitis in the C57BL/6J mouse, but failed to infect productively human corneal epithelial cells. These data led to retyping of the clinical EKC isolates with a HAdV-D19 hexon gene as HAdV-D64.
HAdV-D19 associated with EKC (HAdV-D64) originated from a recombination between HAdV-D19p, HAdV-D37, and HAdV-D22, and was mischaracterized because of a shared hexon gene. HAdV-D19p is not infectious for corneal epithelial cells, thus explaining the lack of any association with keratitis.
Zhou and colleagues study the viral genomes of clinical isolates of human adenovirus type 19, a common cause of epidemic keratoconjunctivitis, and show that the virus is really a naturally occurring recombinant of type 19, type 37 and type 22, with only the hexon gene derived from type 19.