Next-generation sequencing technologies have significantly facilitated the discovery of novel viruses, and metagenomic surveillance of arthropods has enabled exploration of the diversity of novel or known viral agents. We have identified a novel rhabdovirus that is genetically related to the recently described Merida virus via next-generation sequencing in a mosquito pool from Thrace. The complete viral genome contains 11,798 nucleotides with 83% genome-wide nucleotide sequence similarity to Merida virus. Five major putative open reading frames that follow the canonical rhabdovirus genome organization were identified. A total of 1380 mosquitoes comprising 13 species, collected from Thrace and the Mediterranean and Aegean regions of Anatolia were screened for the novel virus using primers based on the N and L genes of the prototype genome. Eight positive pools (6.2%) exclusively comprised Culex pipiens sensu lato specimens originating from all study regions. Infections were observed in pools with female as well as male or mixed-sex individuals. The overall and Cx. pipiens-specific minimal infection rates were calculated to be 5.7 and 14.8, respectively. Sequencing of the PCR products revealed marked diversity within a portion of the N gene, with up to 4% divergence and distinct amino acid substitutions that were unrelated to the collection site. Phylogenetic analysis of the complete and partial viral polymerase (L gene) amino acid sequences placed the novel virus and Merida virus in a distinct group, indicating that these strains are closely related. The strain is tentatively named “Merida-like virus Turkey”. Studies are underway to isolate and further explore the host range and distribution of this new strain.
Archives of Virology – Springer Journals
Published: Mar 10, 2017
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