Human Cytomegalovirus Genomes Sequenced Directly From Clinical Material: Variation, Multiple-Strain Infection, Recombination, and Gene Loss

J Infect Dis. 2019 Jul 31;220(5):781-791. doi: 10.1093/infdis/jiz208.


The genomic characteristics of human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) strains sequenced directly from clinical pathology samples were investigated, focusing on variation, multiple-strain infection, recombination, and gene loss. A total of 207 datasets generated in this and previous studies using target enrichment and high-throughput sequencing were analyzed, in the process enabling the determination of genome sequences for 91 strains. Key findings were that (i) it is important to monitor the quality of sequencing libraries in investigating variation; (ii) many recombinant strains have been transmitted during HCMV evolution, and some have apparently survived for thousands of years without further recombination; (iii) mutants with nonfunctional genes (pseudogenes) have been circulating and recombining for long periods and can cause congenital infection and resulting clinical sequelae; and (iv) intrahost variation in single-strain infections is much less than that in multiple-strain infections. Future population-based studies are likely to continue illuminating the evolution, epidemiology, and pathogenesis of HCMV.

Keywords: gene loss; genome sequence; genotype; human cytomegalovirus; multiple-strain infection; mutation; recombination; target enrichment; variation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Base Sequence*
  • Cytomegalovirus / genetics*
  • Cytomegalovirus Infections / virology*
  • DNA, Viral / genetics
  • Databases, Nucleic Acid
  • Datasets as Topic
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Genes, Viral
  • Genetic Variation
  • Genome, Viral* / genetics
  • Genotype
  • High-Throughput Nucleotide Sequencing
  • Humans
  • Mutation
  • Recombination, Genetic*
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Whole Genome Sequencing


  • DNA, Viral