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The complete genome sequence of a Crimean-Congo Hemorrhagic Fever virus isolated from an endemic region in Kosovo

Darja Duh1, Stuart T Nichol2, Marina L Khristova2, Ana Saksida1, Iva Hafner-Bratkovič3, Miroslav Petrovec1, Iusuf Dedushaj4, Salih Ahmeti5 and Tatjana Avšič-Županc1*

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of Microbiology and Immunology, Medical Faculty, Ljubljana, Slovenia

2 Special Pathogens Branch and Biotechnology Core Facility Branch, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia, USA

3 National Institute of Chemistry, Ljubljana, Slovenia

4 National Institute of Public Health, Pristina, Kosovo

5 Clinic of Infectious diseases, Pristina, Kosovo

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Virology Journal 2008, 5:7  doi:10.1186/1743-422X-5-7

Published: 15 January 2008

Abstract

The Balkan region and Kosovo in particular, is a well-known Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever (CCHF) endemic region, with frequent epidemic outbreaks and sporadic cases occurring with a hospitalized case fatality of approximately 30%. Recent analysis of complete genome sequences of diverse CCHF virus strains showed that the genome plasticity of the virus is surprisingly high for an arthropod-borne virus. High levels of nucleotide and amino acid differences, frequent RNA segment reassortment and even RNA recombination have been recently described. This diversity illustrates the need to determine the complete genome sequence of CCHF virus representatives of all geographically distinct endemic areas, particularly in light of the high pathogenicity of the virus and its listing as a potential bioterrorism threat. Here we describe the first complete CCHF virus genome sequence of a virus (strain Kosova Hoti) isolated from a hemorrhagic fever case in the Balkans. This virus strain was isolated from a fatal CCHF case, and passaged only twice on Vero E6 cells prior to sequence analysis. The virus total genome was found to be 19.2 kb in length, consisting of a 1672 nucleotide (nt) S segment, a 5364 nt M segment and a 12150 nt L segment. Phylogenetic analysis of CCHF virus complete genomes placed the Kosova Hoti strain in the Europe/Turkey group, with highest similarity seen with Russian isolates. The virus M segments are the most diverse with up to 31 and 27% differences seen at the nt and amino acid levels, and even 1.9% amino acid difference found between the Kosova Hoti and another strain from Kosovo (9553-01). This suggests that distinct virus strains can coexist in highly endemic areas.