The recombinant origin of emerging human norovirus GII.4/2008: intra-genotypic exchange of the capsid P2 domain.


GII.4 noroviruses are a major cause of acute gastroenteritis in humans. A new variant of GII.4, the 2008 variant, has recently increased its prevalence on a global scale. A previous study of this variant in Japan suggested that it might be of recombinant origin, with a breakpoint at the ORF1-ORF2 junction. Here, examination of the evolutionary origin of the 2008 variant based on a larger sample of worldwide GII.4 norovirus sequences revealed a more complex pattern of recombination between the 2006a- and 2006b-like variants of genotype GII.4, involving the P2 antigenic domain. Double (termed '2008i') and triple (termed '2008ii') recombinant forms of 2008 variants were identified. This study highlights the possible importance of intra-genotypic recombination over antigenic regions in driving norovirus evolution, and is suggestive of a process analogous to the antigenic shift of influenza A virus by reassortment.

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