Despite intensive surveillance, Venezuelan hemorrhagic fever (VHF), caused by Guanarito (GTO) virus, has been detected in only a small region of western Venezuela. To determine whether VHF is associated with a particular regional GTO virus strain(s), 29 isolates from rodents and humans throughout the surrounding regions were analyzed by partial sequencing of the nucleocapsid protein gene. Phylogenetic trees delineated nine distinct GTO genotypes that differ by 4-17% in nucleotides and up to 9% in amino acid sequences; most appeared to be restricted to discrete geographic regions, although a few genotypes were isolated in several locations. Each genotype included at least one strain recovered from a rodent, but only two genotypes were isolated from VHF cases. The presence outside of the endemic/epidemic region of two genotypes isolated also from VHF cases suggests that human pathogenic viruses occur outside of the endemic zone, but do not frequently infect people and/or cause apparent disease there. VHF does not appear to be associated with a GTO virus genotype that is restricted to a certain rodent species. When quasispecies diversity was examined, rodent isolates had higher sequence variation than human isolates. One rodent isolate included a mixture of two phylogenetically distinct genotypes, suggesting a dual infection.
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