Whole Genome Characterization of Orthopoxvirus (OPV) Abatino, a Zoonotic Virus Representing a Putative Novel Clade of Old World Orthopoxviruses.
Orthopoxviruses (OPVs) are diffused over the complete Eurasian continent, but previously described strains are mostly from northern Europe, and few infections have been reported from Italy. Here we present the extended genomic characterization of OPV Abatino, a novel OPV isolated in Italy from an infected Tonkean macaque, with zoonotic potential. Phylogenetic analysis based on 102 conserved OPV genes (core gene set) showed that OPV Abatino is most closely related to the Ectromelia virus species (ECTV), although placed on a separate branch of the phylogenetic tree, bringing substantial support to the hypothesis that this strain may be part of a novel OPV clade. Extending the analysis to the entire set of genes (coding sequences, CDS) further substantiated this hypothesis. In fact the genome of OPV Abatino included more CDS than ECTV; most of the extra genes (mainly located in the terminal genome regions), showed the highest similarity with cowpox virus (CPXV); however vaccinia virus (VACV) and monkeypox virus (MPXV) were the closest OPV for certain CDS. These findings suggest that OPV Abatino could be the result of complex evolutionary events, diverging from any other previously described OPV, and may indicate that previously reported cases in Italy could represent the tip of the iceberg yet to be explored.