In February 2012, the novel respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) group A, genotype ON1, was detected in Kilifi County, coastal Kenya. ON1 is characterized by a 72-nt duplication within the highly variable G gene (encoding the immunogenic attachment surface protein). Cases were diagnosed through surveillance of pneumonia in children at the county hospital. Analysis of epidemiologic, clinical, and sequence data of RSV-A viruses detected over 5 RSV seasons (2010/2011 to 2014/2015) indicated the following: 1) replacement of previously circulating genotype GA2 ON1, 2) an abrupt expansion in the number of ON1 variants detected in the 2014/2015 epidemic, 3) recently accumulation of amino acid substitutions within the ON1 duplicated sequence, and 4) no clear evidence of altered pathogenicity relative to GA2. The study demonstrates the public health importance of molecular surveillance in defining the spread, clinical effects, and evolution of novel respiratory virus variants.
Keywords: G protein; RSV; evolutionary dynamics; genetic diversity; phylogenetic analysis; respiratory diseases; respiratory infections; respiratory syncytial virus; viruses.