Phylogenetic analysis of Puumala virus subtype Bavaria, characterization and diagnostic use of its recombinant nucleocapsid protein

Puumala virus (PUUV) is the predominant hantavirus species in Germany causing large numbers of mild to moderate cases of haemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome (HFRS). During an outbreak in South-East Germany in 2004 a novel PUUV subtype designated Bavaria was identified as the causative agent of HFRS in humans [1]. Here we present a molecular characterization of this PUUV strain by investigating novel partial and almost entire nucleocapsid (N) protein-encoding small (S-) segment sequences and partial medium (M-) segment sequences from bank voles (Myodes glareolus) trapped in Lower Bavaria during 2004 and 2005. Phylogenetic analyses confirmed their classification as subtype Bavaria, which is further subdivided into four geographical clusters. The entire N protein, harbouring an amino-terminal hexahistidine tag, of the Bavarian strain was produced in yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae and showed a slightly different reactivity with N-specific monoclonal antibodies, compared to the yeast-expressed N protein of the PUUV strain Vranica/Hällnäs. Endpoint titration of human sera from different parts of Germany and from Finland revealed only very slight differences in the diagnostic value of the different recombinant proteins. Based on the novel N antigen indirect and monoclonal antibody capture IgG-ELISAs were established. By using serum panels from Germany and Finland their validation demonstrated a high sensitivity and specificity. In summary, our investigations demonstrated the Bavarian PUUV strain to be genetically divergent from other PUUV strains and the potential of its N protein for diagnostic applications.


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