Molecular Detection and Characterization of the First Cowpox Virus Isolate Derived from a Bank Vole
Cowpox virus (CPXV) is a zoonotic orthopoxvirus (OPV) that infects a wide range of mammals. CPXV-specific DNA and antibodies were detected in different vole species, such as common voles (Microtus arvalis) and bank voles (Myodes glareolus). Therefore, voles are the putative main reservoir host of CPXV. However, CPXV was up to now only isolated from common voles. Here we report the detection and isolation of a bank vole-derived CPXV strain (GerMygEK 938/17) resulting from a large-scale screening of bank voles collected in Thuringia, Germany, during 2017 and 2018. Phylogenetic analysis using the complete viral genome sequence indicated a high similarity of the novel strain to CPXV clade 3 and to OPV “Abatino” but also to Ectromelia virus (ECTV) strains. Phenotypic characterization of CPXV GerMygEK 938/17 using inoculation of embryonated chicken eggs displayed hemorrhagic pock lesions on the chorioallantoic membrane that are typical for CPXV but not for ECTV. CPXV GerMygEK 938/17 replicated in vole-derived kidney cell lines but at lower level than on Vero76 cell line. In conclusion, the first bank vole-derived CPXV isolate provides new insights into the genetic variability of CPXV in the putative reservoir host and is a valuable tool for further studies about CPXV-host interaction and molecular evolution of OPV.