Molecular characterisation and recent evolution of myxoma virus in Spain.
Journal - Archives of virology
Myxoma virus and the European rabbit are one of the best-studied examples of coevolution of pathogen virulence and host resistance. Since the introduction of the virus in Spain in 1953, a decrease in its virulence has been observed; however, most strains are still considered highly virulent. To determine whether this attenuation is due to molecular differences, and to characterise the field strains in Spain and the genetic changes that have occurred since the introduction of the virus, we analysed 7,741 bp in 97 virus samples from 12 localities. We found an extremely low genetic variability and an absence of a geographic structure. We defined 35 haplotypes, none of which were identical to the original Lausanne strain. Three genetic groups were determined and were found to occur at different frequencies in different locations. Overall, virus evolution deviated from neutrality and did not conform to a strict molecular clock, probably due to the existence of a strong selective pressure that acts differently across the viral genome.