Picornaviruses are small non-enveloped positive strand RNA viruses that can cause a wide range of clinical manifestations in humans and animals. Many of these viruses are highly diversified and globally prevalent. Natural recombination has been reported in most picornavirus genera and is a key genetic feature of these infectious agents. In several socially relevant picornavirus genera, such as enteroviruses, aphthoviruses, parechoviruses and cardioviruses, recombination, combined with dynamic global epidemiology, maintains virus species as a worldwide pool of genetic information. It can be suggested that on a short time scale recombination acts to promote virus diversity, and new recombinant forms of picornaviruses emerge frequently as 'snapshots' of this global pool. On a longer time scale, recombination maintains stability of a gene pool of a species by shuffling sequences and thus limiting divergence and speciation. This review covers existing evidence of recombination in most genera of the family Picornaviridae and possible implications for diagnostics, epidemiology and classification.
(c) 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.