Reconstructing the evolutionary history of pandemic foot-and-mouth disease viruses: the impact of recombination within the emerging O/ME-SA/Ind-2001 lineage

Foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) is a highly contagious disease of livestock affecting animal production and trade throughout Asia and Africa. Understanding FMD virus (FMDV) global movements and evolution can help to reconstruct the disease spread between endemic regions and predict the risks of incursion into FMD-free countries. Global expansion of a single FMDV lineage is rare but can result in severe economic consequences. Using extensive sequence data we have reconstructed the global space-time transmission history of the O/ME-SA/Ind-2001 lineage (which normally circulates in the Indian sub-continent) providing evidence of at least 15 independent escapes during 2013-2017 that have led to outbreaks in North Africa, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, the Far East and the FMD-free islands of Mauritius. We demonstrated that sequence heterogeneity of this emerging FMDV lineage is accommodated within two co-evolving divergent sublineages and that recombination by exchange of capsid-coding sequences can impact upon the reconstructed evolutionary histories. Thus, we recommend that only sequences encoding the outer capsid proteins should be used for broad-scale phylogeographical reconstruction. These data emphasise the importance of the Indian subcontinent as a source of FMDV that can spread across large distances and illustrates the impact of FMDV genome recombination on FMDV molecular epidemiology.

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