Genetic and antigenic variation of foot-and-mouth disease virus during persistent infection in naturally infected cattle and Asian buffalo in India

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Journal Article
PLoS ONE, 2019, 14 (6)
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Copyright: This is an open access article, free of all copyright, and may be freely reproduced, distributed, transmitted, modified, built upon, or otherwise used by anyone for any lawful purpose. The work is made available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The role of foot-and-mouth disease virus (FMDV) persistently infected ruminants in initiating new outbreaks remains controversial, and the perceived threat posed by such animals hinders international trade in FMD-endemic countries. In this study we report longitudinal analyses of genetic and antigenic variations of FMDV serotype O/ME-SA/Ind2001d sublineage during naturally occurring, persistent infection in cattle and buffalo at an organised dairy farm in India. The proportion of animals from which FMDV RNA was recovered was not significantly different between convalescent (post-clinical) and sub-clinically infected animals or between cattle and buffalo across the sampling period. However, infectious virus was isolated from a higher proportion of buffalo samples and for a longer duration compared to cattle. Analysis of the P1 sequences from recovered viruses indicated fixation of mutations at the rate of 1.816 x 10-2substitution/site/year (s/s/y) (95% CI 1.362–2.31 x 10−2 s/s/y). However, the majority of point mutations were transitional substitutions. Within individual animals, the mean dN/dS (ω) value for the P1 region varied from 0.076 to 0.357, suggesting the selection pressure acting on viral genomes differed substantially across individual animals. Statistical parsimony analysis indicated that all of the virus isolates from carrier animals originated from the outbreak virus. The antigenic relationship value as determined by 2D-VNT assay revealed fluctuation of antigenic variants within and between carrier animals during the carrier state which suggested that some carrier viruses had diverged substantially from the protection provided by the vaccine strain. This study contributes to understanding the extent of within-host and within-herd evolution that occurs during the carrier state of FMDV.
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