A traditional evolutionary history of foot-and-mouth disease viruses in Southeast Asia challenged by analyses of non-structural protein coding sequences

Recombination of rapidly evolving RNA-viruses provides an important mechanism for diversification, spread, and emergence of new variants with enhanced fitness. Foot-and-mouth disease virus (FMDV) causes an important transboundary disease of livestock that is endemic to most countries in Asia and Africa. Maintenance and spread of FMDV are driven by periods of dominance of specific viral lineages. Current understanding of the molecular epidemiology of FMDV lineages is generally based on the phylogenetic relationship of the capsid-encoding genes, with less attention to the process of recombination and evolution of non-structural proteins. In this study, the putative recombination breakpoints of FMDVs endemic to Southeast Asia were determined using full-open reading frame sequences. Subsequently, the lineages’ divergence times of recombination-free genome regions were estimated. These analyses revealed a close relationship between two of the earliest endemic viral lineages that appear unrelated when only considering the phylogeny of their capsid proteins. Contrastingly, one lineage, named O/CATHAY, known for having a particular host predilection (pigs) has evolved independently. Additionally, intra-lineage recombination occurred at different breakpoints compared to the inter-lineage process. These results provide new insights about FMDV recombination patterns and the evolutionary interdependence of FMDV serotypes and lineages.

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