West Nile virus infections in Hungary: Epidemiological update and phylogenetic analysis of the Hungarian virus strains between 2015 and 2022

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Abstract

Following the introduction of the West Nile virus (WNV) into Hungary in 2004, it has shortly become one of the most important human arbovirus infections, with a gradually increasing number of cases. The study aimed to summarize the current epidemiological situation in Hungary and sequence the WNV PCR-positive clinical specimens and virus isolates by next-generation whole genome sequencing (NGS) to obtain a detailed phylogenetic analysis of the circulating virus strains. Whole blood and urine samples from confirmed WNV-infected patients and WNV isolates were investigated by reverse transcription PCR assays. Genome sequencing was carried out by Sanger-method, followed by NGS on the Illumina MiSeq platform. Altogether 499 human infections were diagnosed between 2004 and 2022. A particularly remarkable increase in human WNV infections was observed in 2018, while the number of reported cases significantly decreased during the COVID-19 pandemic. Between 2015 and 2022, 15 WNV isolates, and 10 PCR-positive clinical specimens were investigated by NGS. Phylogenetic analysis revealed that the major European WNV lineage 2 clades, namely the Eastern European (or Russian) and the Central European (or Hungarian) clades, are presented in Hungary. Strains of the Balkan and other European clusters within the Central European clade are co-circulating in the country, following a characteristic geographical distribution. In Hungary, the presence and co-circulation of multiple lineage 2 WNV strains could be identified in the last few years. Therefore, in light of the 2018 WNV outbreak, sequence-based typing of the currently circulating strains could highly support outbreak investigations.

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APA

Nagy, A., Horvath, A., Mezei, E., Henczko, J., Magyar, N., Nagy, O., … Takacs, M. (2023). West Nile virus infections in Hungary: Epidemiological update and phylogenetic analysis of the Hungarian virus strains between 2015 and 2022. Acta Microbiologica et Immunologica Hungarica, 70(2), 111–118. https://doi.org/10.1556/030.2023.02040

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