Evolution of respiratory syncytial virus genotype BA in Kilifi, Kenya, 15 years on

Kamau E, Otieno JR, Lewa CS, Mwema A, Murunga N, Nokes DJ, Agoti CN
Sci Rep. 2020;10

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Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is recognised as a leading cause of severe acute respiratory disease and deaths among infants and vulnerable adults. Clinical RSV isolates can be divided into several known genotypes. RSV genotype BA, characterised by a 60-nucleotide duplication in the G glycoprotein gene, emerged in 1999 and quickly disseminated globally replacing other RSV group B genotypes. Continual molecular epidemiology is critical to understand the evolutionary processes maintaining the success of the BA viruses. We analysed 735 G gene sequences from samples collected from paediatric patients in Kilifi, Kenya, between 2003 and 2017. The virus population comprised of several genetically distinct variants (n = 56) co-circulating within and between epidemics. In addition, there was consistent seasonal fluctuations in relative genetic diversity. Amino acid changes increasingly accumulated over the surveillance period including two residues (N178S and Q180R) that mapped to monoclonal antibody 2D10 epitopes, as well as addition of putative N-glycosylation sequons. Further, switching and toggling of amino acids within and between epidemics was observed. On a global phylogeny, the BA viruses from different countries form geographically isolated clusters suggesting substantial localized variants. This study offers insights into longitudinal population dynamics of a globally endemic RSV genotype within a discrete location.