Journal of clinical microbiology vol:44 issue:5 pages:1801-1809
Several G8P and G8P rotavirus strains were isolated from hospitalized patients in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2003. To investigate their overall genomic relatedness and to determine to which genogroup they belonged, the complete genomes of strains DRC88 (G8P) and DRC86 (G8P) were determined. Genomic comparison of these two African G8 strains revealed that 10 out of their 11 gene segments, except for VP4, were nearly identical (>98.9% identical at the nucleotide level), suggesting that this rare G8P rotavirus strain originated recently from a reassortment between a common G8P strain and a strain with a P specificity. A very close evolutionary relationship between 9 out of the 11 gene segments of DRC88 and DRC86 and rotavirus strains belonging to the DS-1-like (G2P) "genogroup" was found, and several possible reassortment events preceding the occurrence of G8P and G8P human rotaviruses were hypothesized. Since the genes of G2P rotavirus strains are very well adapted to infect humans, the acquirement of a new VP7 (G8) gene, and especially the replacement of P (believed to be of animal origin) by P (most common in human rotaviruses), might make DRC88-like rotaviruses very well equipped to become a predominant human rotavirus strain and an important pathogen on the African continent and the rest of the world. These findings have important implications for rotavirus vaccine development and highlight that typing of new rotavirus strains by merely sequencing their VP7 and VP4 genes provides us with only the tip of the iceberg regarding rotavirus diversity.