A large scale outbreak of hand-foot-and-mouth disease (HFMD) occurred in Taiwan in 1998, in which more than 80 children died of shock syndrome with pulmonary edema/hemorrhage. Enterovirus 71 was implicated as the cause of this outbreak. In order to understand the virological basis responsible for mortality on this scale, nucleotide sequences of VP1 that is important for serotypic specificity, and the 5'-non-coding region (5'-NCR) that is important for replication efficiency, were analyzed comparatively. Phylogenetic analysis of both VP1 and 5'-NCR of nine EV71 isolates derived from specimens of fatal patients and seven isolates derived from uncomplicated HFMD patients showed that all but one isolate fell into genotype B. The one distinct isolate from a case of uncomplicated HFMD belonged to genotype C that was clustered along with one isolate from Taiwan in 1986. Complete sequence analysis of two selected isolates, one from the spinal cord of a fatal case and one from the vesicle fluid of a patient with mild HFMD, confirmed a high degree (97-100%) of identity in nucleotide sequence throughout the entire genome, except focal regions of 3C and 3'-NCR where the nucleotide homology was 90-91%. The identity of the deduced amino acid sequence in the 3C region that encodes viral proteinase dropped further to 86%, a result of missense mutations at the first nucleotide position of many codons. (C) 2000 Elsevier Science B.V.
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