Journal article Open Access

Genome Sequence Diversity and Clues to the Evolution of Variola (Smallpox) Virus

Esposito, J. J.

Comparative genomics of 45 epidemiologically varied variola virus isolates from the past 30 years of the smallpox era indicate low sequence diversity, suggesting that there is probably little difference in the isolates' functional gene content. Phylogenetic clustering inferred three clades coincident with their geographical origin and case-fatality rate; the latter implicated putative proteins that mediate viral virulence differences. Analysis of the viral linear DNA genome suggests that its evolution involved direct descent and DNA end-region recombination events. Knowing the sequences will help understand the viral proteome and improve diagnostic test precision, therapeutics, and systems for their assessment. Samples of the smallpox virus reveal three distinct clades—from West Africa, Asia, and South America—a finding that could facilitate the response to an unintended release. Samples of the smallpox virus reveal three distinct clades—from West Africa, Asia, and South America—a finding that could facilitate the response to an unintended release.

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