Author(s): Wang LF, Yu M, Hansson E, Pritchard LI, Shiell B,
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Abstract An outbreak of acute respiratory disease in Hendra, a suburb of Brisbane, Australia, in September 1994 resulted in the deaths of 14 racing horses and a horse trainer. The causative agent was a new member of the family Paramyxoviridae. The virus was originally called Equine morbillivirus but was renamed Hendra virus (HeV) when molecular characterization highlighted differences between it and members of the genus Morbillivirus. Less than 5 years later, the closely related Nipah virus (NiV) emerged in Malaysia, spread rapidly through the pig population, and caused the deaths of over 100 people. We report the characterization of the HeV L gene and protein, the genome termini, and gene boundary sequences, thus completing the HeV genome sequence. In the highly conserved region of the L protein, the HeV sequence GDNE differs from the GDNQ found in almost all other nonsegmented negative-strand (NNS) RNA viruses. HeV has an absolutely conserved intergenic trinucleotide sequence, 3'-GAA-5', and highly conserved transcription initiation and termination sequences similar to those of respiroviruses and morbilliviruses. The large genome size (18,234 nucleotides), the unique complementary genome terminal sequences of HeV, and the limited homology with other members of the Paramyxoviridae suggest that HeV, together with NiV, should be classified in a new genus in this family. The large genome of HeV also fills a gap in the spectrum of genome sizes observed with NNS RNA virus genomes. As such, it provides a further piece in the puzzle of NNS RNA virus evolution.
This article was published in J Virol
and referenced in Journal of Bioterrorism & Biodefense