Forty-six strains of Japanese encephalitis (JE) virus from a variety of geographic areas of in Asia were examined by primer-extension sequencing of the RNA template. A 240 nucleotide sequence from the pre-M gene region was selected for study because it provided sufficient information for determining genetic relationships among the virus isolates. Using 12% divergence as a cutoff point for virus relationships, the 46 isolates fell into three distinct genotypic groups. One genotypic group consisted of JE virus isolated from northern Thailand and Cambodia. A second group was composed of isolates from southern Thailand, Malaysia, Sarawak and Indonesia. The remainder of the isolates, from Japan, China, Taiwan, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, India and Nepal, made up a third group. The implications of these findings in relation to the epidemiology of JE are discussed. Results of this study demonstrate that the comparison of short nucleotide sequences can provide insight into JE virus evolution, transmission and, possibly, pathogenesis.
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