In Japan, indigenous tick-borne phleboviruses (TBPVs) and their associated diseases first became evident in 2013 by reported human cases of severe fever with thrombocytopenia syndrome (SFTS). In this study, we report a novel member of the genus Phlebovirus designated as Kabuto Mountain virus (KAMV), which was isolated from the ixodid tick Haemaphysalis flava in Hyogo, Japan. A complete viral genome sequencing and phylogenetic analyses showed that KAMV is a novel member of TBPVs, which is closely related to the Uukuniemi and Kaisodi group viruses. However, unlike the Uukuniemi group viruses, the 165-nt intergenic region (IGR) in the KAMV S segment was highly C-rich in the genomic sense and not predicted to form a secondary structure, which are rather similar to those of the Kaisodi group viruses and most mosquito/sandfly-borne phleboviruses. Furthermore, the NSs protein of KAMV was highly divergent from those of other TBPVs. These results provided further insights into the genetic diversity and evolutionary relationships of TBPVs. KAMV could infect and replicate in some rodent and primate cell lines. We evaluated the infectivity and pathogenicity of KAMV in suckling mice, where we obtained a virulent strain after two passages via intracerebral inoculation. This is the first report showing the existence of a previously unrecognized TBPV in Japan, other than the SFTS virus.
Keywords: Arbovirus; Family Phenuiviridae; Haemaphysalis flava; Tick-borne phlebovirus; Whole-genome analysis.
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