H1.46EI Postgraduate project: Karli Geerlings: The molecular epidemiology and characterisation of emerging Flaviviruses in the Australasian region (completed)
The Japanese encephalitis (JE) serocomplex encompasses a serologically related group of mosquito-borne Flaviviruses and includes several important emerging pathogens, including the prototype member of this group, JE virus (JEV). JEV is the most important cause of human viral encephalitis worldwide and is newly emerged in the Australasian region. Recombination has recently been demonstrated as a novel mechanism of evolution of JEV and other flaviviruses. Notably however, evidence for this has been refuted in some instances because of errors found in database sequence information on which these studies were based. It is therefore important to independently verify the sequences of putative JEV recombinants before further investigating the significance of this phenomenon in virus ecology. Given the implication of recombination for vaccine development and virus control strategies, it is also important to determine the extent to which this occurs for other Australasian flaviviruses. One such virus is Murray Valley Encephalitis virus (MVEV), a close relative to JEV and the principle cause of viral encephalitis on mainland Australia. At present, only limited sequence information for MVEV isolates exists; with recent evidence of increasing MVEV activity and incidence of infection in Australia, further molecular characterisation of this virus is necessary for establishing the relationships and origins of Australasian isolates. Such studies will also provide a basis for future in vitro investigations on the potential for recombination between genera of wildtype flavivirus, of particular concern since this may lead to novel viruses with enhanced pathogenic properties.