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Volume 16, Number 1—January 2010
Letter

Detection of Newly Described Astrovirus MLB1 in Stool Samples from Children

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To the Editor: We read with interest the article by Finkbeiner et al. describing an epidemiologic survey of newly described astrovirus MLB1 (AstV-MLB1) conducted in the United States in 2008 (1). This study was an extension of recently published reports of characterization of AstV-MLB1 from a fecal sample obtained in Australia in 1999 (2,3). These studies provide evidence of a divergent group of astroviruses and their etiologic association with human disease.

However, the occurrence of a MLB1-like AstV in humans has already been documented. Walter identified a novel AstV in an 8-month-old child with diarrhea in Mexico in 1991 (4). In that study, Walter screened fecal samples for AstVs by using a variety of techniques. Sequencing of selected PCR products identified a unique virus that had typical AstV morphologic appearance but was nonreactive with human AstV-specific monoclonal or polyclonal antibodies. Phylogenetic analysis of fragments of open reading frame 1a (ORF1a) and ORF2 genome regions of this virus strain (M3363) showed that it was only distantly related to other mammalian AstVs, including human AstVs (4). This sequence divergence from canonical human AstVs suggested that M3363 might have been transmitted from an animal reservoir (4,5).

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Thumbnail of Neighbor-joining tree based on partial sequences of open reading frame 1a protein of human and animal astroviruses. Amino acid sequences of the Mexican M3363 strain (arrow) were obtained from Walter (4); other sequences were obtained from GenBank. Bootstrap values >90 are indicated. Scale bar is proportional to genetic distance and indicates nucleotide substitutions per site.

Figure. Neighbor-joining tree based on partial sequences of open reading frame 1a protein of human and animal astroviruses. Amino acid sequences of the Mexican M3363 strain (arrow) were obtained from Walter (<>

When we reanalyzed ORF1a of M3363, we found that this strain was actually an MLB1-like AstV with >98% amino acid similarity to prototype and strains from the United States (Figure) that dated back to 1991. The fact that such closely related viruses were found in a scattered temporal and spatial pattern in children may indicate that MLB1-like AstVs represent a true human enteric virus, which was probably overlooked in the absence of adequate diagnostic reagents and protocols.

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Krisztián BányaiComments to Author , Edina Meleg, Paschalina Moschidou, and Vito Martella

Author affiliations: Veterinary Medical Research Institute, Budapest, Hungary (K. Bányai); University of Pécs, Pécs, Hungary (K. Bányai E. Meleg); University of Bari, Valenzano, Italy (P. Moschidou, V. Martella)

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References

  1. Finkbeiner  SR, Le  BM, Holtz  LR, Storch  GA, Wang  D. Detection of newly described astrovirus MLB1 in stool samples from children. Emerg Infect Dis. 2009;15:4414. DOIPubMed
  2. Finkbeiner  SR, Allred  AF, Tarr  PI, Klein  EJ, Kirkwood  CD, Wang  D. Metagenomic analysis of human diarrhea: viral detection and discovery. PLoS Pathog. 2008;4:e1000011. DOIPubMed
  3. Finkbeiner  SR, Kirkwood  CD, Wang  D. Complete genome sequence of a highly divergent astrovirus isolated from a child with acute diarrhea. Virol J. 2008;5:117.PubMed
  4. Walter  JE. Genetic characterization of astroviruses associated with diarrhea among children in a periurban community of Mexico City, 2002 [doctoral dissertation]. Pecs (Hungary): Medical School, University of Pecs.
  5. Mendez  E, Arias  CF. Astroviruses. In: Knipe DM, Howley PM, editors. Fields virology. 5th ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins; 2007. p. 981–1000.

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DOI: 10.3201/eid1601.091120

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In Response

We thank Bányai et al. (1) for drawing attention to the unpublished data of Walter (2), which was not part of the peer-reviewed literature at the time we described the complete genome of astrovirus MLB1 (3) or when we described our epidemiologic survey of stools collected in St. Louis, Missouri, USA (4). The results of Walter extend the known geographic range of astrovirus MLB1 to include Mexico, thus supporting our recent proposal that astrovirus MLB1 is likely to be globally widespread (4). We look forward to including the partial sequence generated by Walter in future analyses of astrovirus MLB1 genetic diversity. We strongly encourage Bányai et al. to submit their sequence data to any of the publicly accessible and searchable international sequence databases such as GenBank, the European Molecular Biology Nucleotide Sequence Database, or the DNA Database of Japan so that it can be readily accessed by the scientific community.

Author affiliations: Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri, USA

References

  1. Bányai  K, Meleg  E, Moschidou  P, Martella  V. Detection of newly described astrovirus MLB1 in stool samples from children [letter]. Emerg Infect Dis. 2010;16:169. DOIPubMed
  2. Walter  JE. Genetic characterization of astroviruses associated with diarrhea among children in a periurban community of Mexico City, 2002 [doctoral dissertation]. Pecs (Hungary): Medical School, University of Pecs.
  3. Finkbeiner  SR, Kirkwood  CD, Wang  D. Complete genome sequence of a highly divergent astrovirus isolated from a child with acute diarrhea. Virol J. 2008;5:117.PubMed
  4. Finkbeiner  SR, Le  BM, Holtz  LR, Storch  GA, Wang  D. Detection of newly described astrovirus MLB1 in stool samples from children. Emerg Infect Dis. 2009;15:4414 . DOIPubMed

Table of Contents – Volume 16, Number 1—January 2010

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David Wang, Washington University School of Medicine, Campus Box 8230, 660 S Euclid Ave, St. Louis, MO 63110, USA

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