Genetic variation in dengue 2 isolates from various geographic areas was examined by oligonucleotide fingerprinting of the 40 S genome RNA. Oligonucleotide maps of geographically isolated and epidemiologically unrelated viruses were very distinct. Direct comparison of the oligonucleotide map of the dengue 2 prototype New Guinea 2 virus, isolated in 1944, with the fingerprints of more recent isolates from the South Pacific indicated that the genome of dengue 2 virus had undergone extensive change although the viruses are serologically indistinguishable. The oligonucleotide map of an isolate from a recent case in Jamaica and a mosquito isolate from Upper Volta, Africa, were recognized to be almost identical, suggesting that virus may have been introduced into the Caribbean from West Africa. Likewise, the fingerprints of isolates from Puerto Rico and the South Pacific shared 80 to 95% of their large oligonucleotides, suggesting that the virus involved in these epidemics may have spread throughout Tahiti, American Samoa, Fiji, and to Puerto Rico in the Caribbean or vice versa. On the basis of these studies, five genetic variants or topotypes of dengue 2 virus have been established: (1) Puerto Rico-South Pacific, (2) Burma-Thailand, (3) the Seychelles, (4) the Philippines, and (5) Jamaica-West Africa. Oligonucleotide fingerprinting offers a highly sensitive and reproducible technical approach to the investigation of dengue 2 virus intratypic variation and possibly to the understanding of the biological variation associated with dengue fever and hemorrhagic disease.
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