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Ihling, Clara Marlene; Schnitzler, Paul; Heinrich, Norbert; Mangu, Chacha; Sudi, Lwitiho; Souares, Aurelia; Gies, Sabine; Sie, Ali; Coulibaly, Boubacar; Ouedraogo, Andiyam Thierry; Mordmueller, Benjamin; Held, Jana; Adegnika, Ayola Akim; Fernandes, Jose F.; Eckerle, Isabella; May, Jürgen; Hogan, Benedikt; Eibach, Daniel and Tabatabai, Julia (2021): Molecular epidemiology of respiratory syncytial virus in children in sub-Saharan Africa. In: Tropical Medicine & International Health, Vol. 26, No. 7: pp. 810-822

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Objectives This study investigated the molecular epidemiology of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) among febrile children with acute respiratory tract infection in Ghana, Gabon, Tanzania and Burkina Faso between 2014 and 2017 as well as the evolution and diversification of RSV strains from other sub-Saharan countries. Methods Pharyngeal swabs were collected at four study sites (Agogo, Ghana: n = 490;Lambarene, Gabon: n = 182;Mbeya, Tanzania: n = 293;Nouna, Burkina Faso: n = 115) and analysed for RSV and other respiratory viruses using rtPCR. For RSV-positive samples, sequence analysis of the second hypervariable region of the G gene was performed. A dataset of RSV strains from sub-Saharan Africa (2011-2017) currently available in GenBank was compiled. Phylogenetic analysis was conducted to identify the diversity of circulating RSV genotypes. Results In total, 46 samples were tested RSV positive (Ghana n = 31 (6.3%), Gabon n = 4 (2.2%), Tanzania n = 9 (3.1%) and Burkina Faso n = 2 (1.7%)). The most common RSV co-infection was with rhinovirus. All RSV A strains clustered with genotype ON1 strains with a 72-nucleotide duplication and all RSV B strains belonged to genotype BAIX. Phylogenetic analysis of amino acid sequences from sub-Saharan Africa revealed the diversification into 11 different ON1 and 22 different BAIX lineages and differentiation of ON1 and BAIX strains into potential new sub-genotypes, provisionally named ON1-NGR, BAIX-KEN1, BAIX-KEN2 and BAIX-KEN3. Conclusion The study contributes to an improved understanding of the molecular epidemiology of RSV infection in sub-Saharan Africa. It provides the first phylogenetic data for RSV from Tanzania, Gabon and Burkina Faso and combines it with RSV strains from all other sub-Saharan countries currently available in GenBank.

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