Molecular evolutionary dynamics of respiratory syncytial virus group a in recurrent epidemics in Coastal Kenya

James R. Otieno, Charles N. Agoti, Caroline W. Gitahi, Ann Bett, Mwanajuma Ngama, Graham F. Medley, Patricia A. Cane, D. James Nokesa*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    31 Citations (Scopus)


    The characteristic recurrent epidemics of human respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) within communities may result from the genetic variability of the virus and associated evolutionary adaptation, reducing the efficiency of preexisting immune responses. We analyzed the molecular evolutionary changes in the attachment (G) glycoprotein of RSV-A viruses collected over 13 epidemic seasons (2000 to 2012) in Kilifi (n=649), Kenya, and contemporaneous sequences (n=1,131) collected elsewhere within Kenya and 28 other countries. Genetic diversity in the G gene in Kilifi was dynamic both within and between epidemics, characterized by frequent new variant introductions and limited variant persistence between consecutive epidemics. Four RSV-A genotypes were detected in Kilifi: ON1 (11.9%), GA2 (75.5%), GA5 (12.3%), and GA3 (0.3%), with predominant genotype replacement of GA5 by GA2 and then GA2 by ON1. Within these genotypes, there was considerable variation in potential N-glycosylation sites, with GA2 and ON1 viruses showing up to 15 different patterns involving eight possible sites. Further, we identified 15 positively selected and 34 genotype-distinguishing codon sites, with six of these sites exhibiting both characteristics. The mean substitution rate of the G ectodomain for the Kilifi data set was estimated at 3.58×10-3 (95% highest posterior density interval=3.04 to 4.16) nucleotide substitutions/site/year. Kilifi viruses were interspersed in the global phylogenetic tree, clustering mostly with Kenyan and European sequences. Our findings highlight ongoing genetic evolution and high diversity of circulating RSV-A strains, locally and globally, with potential antigenic differences. Taken together, these provide a possible explanation on the nature of recurrent local RSV epidemics.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)4990-5002
    Number of pages13
    JournalJournal of Virology
    Issue number10
    Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2016

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    Publisher Copyright:
    © 2016, American Society for Microbiology.


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