Revealing new measles virus transmission routes by use of sequence analysis of phosphoprotein and hemagglutinin genes

Julia R. Kessler, Jacques R. Kremer, Sergey V. Shulga, Nina T. Tikhonova, Sabine Santibanez, Annette Mankertz, Galina V. Semeiko, Elena O. Samoilovich, Jean Jacques Muyembe Tamfum, Elisabeth Pukuta, Claude P. Muller

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17 Citations (Scopus)


With improved measles virus (MV) control, the genetic variability of the MV-nucleoprotein hypervariable region (NP-HVR) decreases. Thus, it becomes increasingly difficult to determine the origin of a virus using only this part of the genome. During outbreaks in Europe and Africa, we found MV strains with identical NP-HVR sequences. However, these strains showed considerable diversity within a larger sequencing window based on concatenated MV phosphoprotein and hemagglutinin genes (P/H pseudogenes). In Belarus, Germany, Russia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, the P/H pseudogenes provided insights into chains of transmission, whereas identical NP-HVR provided none. In Russia, for instance, the P/H pseudogene identified temporal clusters rather than geographical clusters, demonstrating the circulation and importation of independent variants rather than large local outbreaks lasting for several years, as suggested by NP-HVR. Thus, by extending the sequencing window for molecular epidemiology, a more refined picture of MV circulation was obtained with more clearly defined links between outbreaks and transmission chains. Our results also suggested that in contrast to the P gene, the H gene acquired fixed substitutions that continued to be found in subsequent outbreaks, possibly with consequences for its antigenicity. Thus, a longer sequencing window has true benefits both for the epidemiological surveillance of measles and for the better monitoring of viral evolution.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)677-683
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Clinical Microbiology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2011


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