Genetic changes found in a distinct clade of Enterovirus D68 associated with paralysis during the 2014 outbreak
Zhang Y, Cao J, Zhang S, Lee AJ, Sun G, Larsen CN, Zhao H, Gu Z, He S, Klem EB, Scheuermann RH
Enterovirus D68 (EV-D68) caused a severe respiratory illness outbreak in the United States in 2014. Reports of acute flaccid myelitis (AFM)/paralysis (AFP) in several independent epidemiological clusters of children with detectable EV-D68 have raised concerns that genetic changes in EV-D68 could be causing increased disease severity and neurological symptoms. To explore the potential link between EV-D68 genetic variations and symptom changes, we performed a series of comparative genomic analyses of EV-D68 2014 outbreak isolate sequences using data and analytical tools in the Virus Pathogen Resource (ViPR; www.viprbrc.org). Our results suggest that (1) three distinct lineages of EV-D68 were co-circulating in 2013 and 2014; (2) isolates associated with AFM/AFP belong to a single phylogenetic subclade - B1; (3) the majority of isolates from the B1 subclade have 21 unique substitutions that distinguish them from other isolates, including amino acid substitutions in the VP1, VP2, and VP3 capsid proteins and the 3D RNA-dependent RNA polymerase, and nucleotide substitutions in the internal ribosome entry sequence (IRES); (4) at 12 of these positions, B1 isolates carry the same residues observed at equivalent positions in paralysis-causing enteroviruses, including poliovirus, EV-D70 and EV-A71. Based on these results, we hypothesize that unique B1 substitutions may be responsible for the apparent increased incidence of neuropathology associated with the 2014 outbreak.