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Sep 09, 2015
UNLABELLED: The Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) causes a severe acute respiratory tract infection with a high fatality rate in humans. Coronaviruses are capable of infecting multiple species and can evolve rapidly through recombination events. Here, we report the complete genomic sequence analysis of a MERS-CoV strain imported to China from South Korea. The imported virus, provisionally named ChinaGD01, belongs to group 3 in clade B in the whole-genome phylogenetic tree and also has a similar tree topology structure in the open reading frame 1a and -b (ORF1ab) gene segment but clusters with group 5 of clade B in the tree constructed using the S gene. Genetic recombination analysis and lineage-specific single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) comparison suggest that the imported virus is a recombinant comprising group 3 and group 5 elements. The time-resolved phylogenetic estimation indicates that the recombination event likely occurred in the second half of 2014. Genetic recombination events between group 3 and group 5 of clade B may have implications for the transmissibility of the virus. IMPORTANCE: The recent outbreak of MERS-CoV in South Korea has attracted global media attention due to the speed of spread and onward transmission. Here, we present the complete genome of the first imported MERS-CoV case in China and demonstrate genetic recombination events between group 3 and group 5 of clade B that may have implications for the transmissibility of MERS-CoV. Copyright © 2015 Wang et al.

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