Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) causes severe cases of human respiratory disease. Since 2012, the victims have mainly come from the Middle East countries or sporadically from some other geographical regions seeded by the travelers who visited the Middle East. Such an introduction through travelling led to the emergence of a MERS-CoV outbreak in Korea in May 2015, which caused more than 140 confirmed human cases in less than a month. Using 70 complete genome sequences of MERS-CoV isolates, including the most recent sequences for the Korean and Chinese isolates, we reconstructed the phylogenetic relationships of the complete genome and the individual protein coding regions. The Korean MERS-CoV strain clustered in the previously established Hafr-Al-Batin-1-2013 clade together with two Saudi Arabian and one Chinese strain sampled in 2015. Although these four strains remained monophyletic in the entire protein-coding region, this clade showed different phylogenetic relationships across the genome, indicating a shared unique recombination pattern that is different from previously reported putative recombination strains. Our findings suggest that the recent ancestor of the Korean and its related MERS-CoV strains is characterized by unique mosaic genome pattern that is different from other putative recombinants.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
M.-S.P. was supported by grants from Korea University (no. K1422391) and the Research Program funded by the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (no. 2015-P48002-00). P.L. was funded by the European Union Seventh Framework Programme [FP7/2007-2013] under Grant Agreement no. 278433-PREDEMICS and ERC Grant Agreement no. 260864.
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