Genetic and Biological Characteristics of Species A Rotaviruses Detected in Common Shrews Suggest a Distinct Evolutionary Trajectory
Species A rotaviruses (RVAs) are important etiological agents of severe diarrhea in young children. They are also widely distributed in mammals and birds, and increasing evidence indicates the possibility of zoonotic transmission of RVA strains between animals and humans. Moreover, reassortment of the eleven segments of the RVA genome can result in rapid biological changes and may influence pathogenic properties. Here, the nearly complete genome of an RVA strain from a common shrew (Sorex araneus) was sequenced, which showed high nucleotide sequence similarity to additionally determined partial sequences from common shrew RVAs, but only very low identity (below 68%) to RVAs from other animal species and humans. New genotypes were assigned to most genome segments of the novel common shrew RVA strain KS14/269 resulting in the genome constellation G39-P-I27-R26-C22-M22-A37-N26-T26-E30-H26. Phylogenetic analyses clustered the common shrew RVAs as ancestral branches of other mammalian and avian RVAs for most of the genome segments, which is in contrast to the phylogeny of the hosts. Nevertheless, conserved sequences typical for all RVAs were identified at the 5ʹ- and 3ʹ- non-coding segment termini. To explore, whether the common shrew RVA can exchange genetic material with other mammalian RVAs by reassortment, a reverse genetics system based on the simian RVA strain SA11 was used. However, no viable reassortants could be rescued by exchanging the VP4-, VP6- or VP7-encoding genome segment alone or in combinations. It can be concluded that highly divergent RVAs are present in common shrews indicating an evolution of these viruses largely separated from other mammalian and avian RVAs. The zoonotic potential of the virus seems to be low, but needs to be further analyzed in future.