Publications by authors named "Ward Deboutte"

20 Publications

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At Least Seven Distinct Rotavirus Genotype Constellations in Bats with Evidence of Reassortment and Zoonotic Transmissions.

mBio 2021 01 19;12(1). Epub 2021 Jan 19.

KU Leuven-University of Leuven, Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Transplantation, Rega Institute for Medical Research, Leuven, Belgium

Bats host many viruses pathogenic to humans, and increasing evidence suggests that rotavirus A (RVA) also belongs to this list. Rotaviruses cause diarrheal disease in many mammals and birds, and their segmented genomes allow them to reassort and increase their genetic diversity. Eighteen out of 2,142 bat fecal samples (0.8%) collected from Europe, Central America, and Africa were PCR-positive for RVA, and 11 of those were fully characterized using viral metagenomics. Upon contrasting their genomes with publicly available data, at least 7 distinct bat RVA genotype constellations (GCs) were identified, which included evidence of reassortments and 6 novel genotypes. Some of these constellations are spread across the world, whereas others appear to be geographically restricted. Our analyses also suggest that several unusual human and equine RVA strains might be of bat RVA origin, based on their phylogenetic clustering, despite various levels of nucleotide sequence identities between them. Although SA11 is one of the most widely used reference strains for RVA research and forms the backbone of a reverse genetics system, its origin remained enigmatic. Remarkably, the majority of the genotypes of SA11-like strains were shared with Gabonese bat RVAs, suggesting a potential common origin. Overall, our findings suggest an underexplored genetic diversity of RVAs in bats, which is likely only the tip of the iceberg. Increasing contact between humans and bat wildlife will further increase the zoonosis risk, which warrants closer attention to these viruses. The increased research on bat coronaviruses after severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) and Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) allowed the very rapid identification of SARS-CoV-2. This is an excellent example of the importance of knowing viruses harbored by wildlife in general, and bats in particular, for global preparedness against emerging viral pathogens. The current effort to characterize bat rotavirus strains from 3 continents sheds light on the vast genetic diversity of rotaviruses and also hints at a bat origin for several atypical rotaviruses in humans and animals, implying that zoonoses of bat rotaviruses might occur more frequently than currently realized.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/mBio.02755-20DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7845630PMC
January 2021

NCBI's Virus Discovery Codeathon: Building "FIVE" -The Federated Index of Viral Experiments API Index.

Viruses 2020 12 10;12(12). Epub 2020 Dec 10.

National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, 9000 Rockville Pike, Bethesda, MD 20894, USA.

Viruses represent important test cases for data federation due to their genome size and the rapid increase in sequence data in publicly available databases. However, some consequences of previously decentralized (unfederated) data are lack of consensus or comparisons between feature annotations. Unifying or displaying alternative annotations should be a priority both for communities with robust entry representation and for nascent communities with burgeoning data sources. To this end, during this three-day continuation of the Virus Hunting Toolkit codeathon series (VHT-2), a new integrated and federated viral index was elaborated. This Federated Index of Viral Experiments (FIVE) integrates pre-existing and novel functional and taxonomy annotations and virus-host pairings. Variability in the context of viral genomic diversity is often overlooked in virus databases. As a proof-of-concept, FIVE was the first attempt to include viral genome variation for HIV, the most well-studied human pathogen, through viral genome diversity graphs. As per the publication of this manuscript, FIVE is the first implementation of a virus-specific federated index of such scope. FIVE is coded in BigQuery for optimal access of large quantities of data and is publicly accessible. Many projects of database or index federation fail to provide easier alternatives to access or query information. To this end, a Python API query system was developed to enhance the accessibility of FIVE.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/v12121424DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7764237PMC
December 2020

A single-dose live-attenuated YF17D-vectored SARS-CoV-2 vaccine candidate.

Nature 2021 02 1;590(7845):320-325. Epub 2020 Dec 1.

KU Leuven Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Transplantation, Rega Institute, Virology and Chemotherapy, Molecular Vaccinology and Vaccine Discovery, KU Leuven, Leuven, Belgium.

The expanding pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) requires the development of safe, efficacious and fast-acting vaccines. Several vaccine platforms are being leveraged for a rapid emergency response. Here we describe the development of a candidate vaccine (YF-S0) for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) that uses live-attenuated yellow fever 17D (YF17D) vaccine as a vector to express a noncleavable prefusion form of the SARS-CoV-2 spike antigen. We assess vaccine safety, immunogenicity and efficacy in several animal models. YF-S0 has an excellent safety profile and induces high levels of SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing antibodies in hamsters (Mesocricetus auratus), mice (Mus musculus) and cynomolgus macaques (Macaca fascicularis), and-concomitantly-protective immunity against yellow fever virus. Humoral immunity is complemented by a cellular immune response with favourable T helper 1 polarization, as profiled in mice. In a hamster model and in macaques, YF-S0 prevents infection with SARS-CoV-2. Moreover, a single dose conferred protection from lung disease in most of the vaccinated hamsters within as little as 10 days. Taken together, the quality of the immune responses triggered and the rapid kinetics by which protective immunity can be attained after a single dose warrant further development of this potent SARS-CoV-2 vaccine candidate.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41586-020-3035-9DOI Listing
February 2021

Metagenomic Approach with the NetoVIR Enrichment Protocol Reveals Virus Diversity within Ethiopian Honey Bees ().

Viruses 2020 10 27;12(11). Epub 2020 Oct 27.

Laboratory of Molecular Entomology and Bee Pathology, Ghent University, B-9000 Ghent, Belgium.

Metagenomics studies have accelerated the discovery of novel or divergent viruses of the honey bee. However, most of these studies predominantly focused on RNA viruses, and many suffer from the relatively low abundance of viral nucleic acids in the samples (i.e., compared to that of the host). Here, we explored the virome of the Ethiopian honey bee, , using an unbiased metagenomic approach in which the next-generation sequencing step was preceded by an enrichment protocol for viral particles. Our study revealed five well-known bee viruses and 25 atypical virus species, most of which have never been found in before. The viruses belong to , , , , , and taxonomically unclassified families. Fifteen of these atypical viruses were most likely plant-specific, and the remaining ten were presumed to be insect-specific. Apis mellifera filamentous virus (AmFV) was found in one sampling site out of 10. Two samples contained high read counts of a virus similar to Diatraea saccharales densovirus (DsDNV), which is a virus that causes high mortality in the sugarcane borer. AmFV and the DsDNV-like virus were the only DNA viruses found. Three viruses that primarily infect spp. were also discovered: La Jolla virus (LJV), Kilifi virus (KiV), and Thika virus. Our study suggests that phoretic varroa mites are involved in the transmission of LJV and KiV and that both viruses replicate in mites and adult bees. We also found an overwhelming dominance of the deformed wing virus type B variant, which fits well with the apparently harmless infestation by . It was suggested that Ethiopian bees have developed tolerance against virus infections as the result of natural selection.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/v12111218DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7692050PMC
October 2020

Clinical relevance of plasma virome dynamics in liver transplant recipients.

EBioMedicine 2020 Oct 24;60:103009. Epub 2020 Sep 24.

KU Leuven, Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Transplantation, Rega Institute, Laboratory for Clinical and Epidemiological Virology, Herestraat 49, Post box 1040, BE-3000 Leuven, Belgium; Health Policy Research Centre, Institute of Health, Shiraz University of Medical Sciences, Shiraz, Iran; Blood Transfusion Research Centre, High Institute for Research and Education in Transfusion Medicine, Tehran, Iran. Electronic address:

Background: The role of the microbiome in liver transplantation (LT) outcome has received a growing interest in the past decades. In contrast to bacteria, the role of endogenous viral communities, known as the virome, is poorly described. Here, we applied a viral metagenomic approach to study the dynamic evolution of circulating viruses in the plasma of LT recipients and its effect on the clinical course of patients.

Methods: Patients chronically infected with hepatitis B virus (HBV) that received a LT due to endstage liver disease were included in this study. Longitudinal plasma samples were collected pre- and post-LT. Intact viral particles were isolated and sequenced on an Illumina HiSeq 2500 platform. Short read libraries were analysed with an in-house bioinformatics pipeline. Key endpoints were the dynamics of viral families and post-LT complications.

Findings: The initiation of immunosuppression induced a bloom of the Anelloviridae that dominated the post-LT plasma virome. A variety of post-LT complication were observed. Nephrotoxicity was reported in 38% of the patients and was associated with a high abundance of anelloviruses. Besides nephrotoxicity, 16 (67%) patients experienced flares of viral or bacterial infections in post-transplant follow-up. These flares were recognized by an increased burden of anelloviruses (p < 0.05). Interestingly, no mortality was observed in patients infected with human pegivirus.

Interpretation: These findings suggest a diagnostic potential for the Anelloviridae family in post-LT complications. Furthermore, the impact of human pegivirus infection on post-transplant survival should be further investigated.

Funding: This trial was supported by Gilead Sciences grant number BE-2017-000133.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ebiom.2020.103009DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7519289PMC
October 2020

Honey-bee-associated prokaryotic viral communities reveal wide viral diversity and a profound metabolic coding potential.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2020 05 27;117(19):10511-10519. Epub 2020 Apr 27.

Department of Microbiology, Immunology, and Transplantation, Rega Institute for Medical Research, Division of Clinical and Epidemiological Virology, KU Leuven, BE3000 Leuven, Belgium;

Honey bees () produce an enormous economic value through their pollination activities and play a central role in the biodiversity of entire ecosystems. Recent efforts have revealed the substantial influence that the gut microbiota exert on bee development, food digestion, and homeostasis in general. In this study, deep sequencing was used to characterize prokaryotic viral communities associated with honey bees, which was a blind spot in research up until now. The vast majority of the prokaryotic viral populations are novel at the genus level, and most of the encoded proteins comprise unknown functions. Nevertheless, genomes of bacteriophages were predicted to infect nearly every major bee-gut bacterium, and functional annotation and auxiliary metabolic gene discovery imply the potential to influence microbial metabolism. Furthermore, undiscovered genes involved in the synthesis of secondary metabolic biosynthetic gene clusters reflect a wealth of previously untapped enzymatic resources hidden in the bee bacteriophage community.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1921859117DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7229680PMC
May 2020

NCBI's Virus Discovery Hackathon: Engaging Research Communities to Identify Cloud Infrastructure Requirements.

Genes (Basel) 2019 09 16;10(9). Epub 2019 Sep 16.

National Center for Biotechnology Information, National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda MD 20894, USA.

A wealth of viral data sits untapped in publicly available metagenomic data sets when it might be extracted to create a usable index for the virological research community. We hypothesized that work of this complexity and scale could be done in a hackathon setting. Ten teams comprised of over 40 participants from six countries, assembled to create a crowd-sourced set of analysis and processing pipelines for a complex biological data set in a three-day event on the San Diego State University campus starting 9 January 2019. Prior to the hackathon, 141,676 metagenomic data sets from the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) Sequence Read Archive (SRA) were pre-assembled into contiguous assemblies (contigs) by NCBI staff. During the hackathon, a subset consisting of 2953 SRA data sets (approximately 55 million contigs) was selected, which were further filtered for a minimal length of 1 kb. This resulted in 4.2 million (Mio) contigs, which were aligned using BLAST against all known virus genomes, phylogenetically clustered and assigned metadata. Out of the 4.2 Mio contigs, 360,000 contigs were labeled with domains and an additional subset containing 4400 contigs was screened for virus or virus-like genes. The work yielded valuable insights into both SRA data and the cloud infrastructure required to support such efforts, revealing analysis bottlenecks and possible workarounds thereof. Mainly: (i) Conservative assemblies of SRA data improves initial analysis steps; (ii) existing bioinformatic software with weak multithreading/multicore support can be elevated by wrapper scripts to use all cores within a computing node; (iii) redesigning existing bioinformatic algorithms for a cloud infrastructure to facilitate its use for a wider audience; and (iv) a cloud infrastructure allows a diverse group of researchers to collaborate effectively. The scientific findings will be extended during a follow-up event. Here, we present the applied workflows, initial results, and lessons learned from the hackathon.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/genes10090714DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6771016PMC
September 2019

Stable distinct core eukaryotic viromes in different mosquito species from Guadeloupe, using single mosquito viral metagenomics.

Microbiome 2019 08 28;7(1):121. Epub 2019 Aug 28.

KU Leuven Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Transplantation, Rega Institute, Laboratory of Viral Metagenomics, Leuven, Belgium.

Background: Mosquitoes are the most important invertebrate viral vectors in humans and harbor a high diversity of understudied viruses, which has been shown in many mosquito virome studies in recent years. These studies generally performed metagenomics sequencing on pools of mosquitoes, without assessment of the viral diversity in individual mosquitoes. To address this issue, we applied our optimized viral metagenomics protocol (NetoVIR) to compare the virome of single and pooled Aedes aegypti and Culex quinquefasciatus mosquitoes collected from different locations in Guadeloupe, in 2016 and 2017.

Results: The total read number and viral reads proportion of samples containing a single mosquito have no significant difference compared with those of pools containing five mosquitoes, which proved the feasibility of using single mosquito for viral metagenomics. A comparative analysis of the virome revealed a higher abundance and more diverse eukaryotic virome in Aedes aegypti, whereas Culex quinquefasciatus harbors a richer and more diverse phageome. The majority of the identified eukaryotic viruses were mosquito-species specific. We further characterized the genomes of 11 novel eukaryotic viruses. Furthermore, qRT-PCR analyses of the six most abundant eukaryotic viruses indicated that the majority of individual mosquitoes were infected by several of the selected viruses with viral genome copies per mosquito ranging from 267 to 1.01 × 10 (median 7.5 × 10) for Ae. aegypti and 192 to 8.69 × 10 (median 4.87 × 10) for Cx. quinquefasciatus. Additionally, in Cx. quinquefasciatus, a number of phage contigs co-occurred with several marker genes of Wolbachia sp. strain wPip.

Conclusions: We firstly demonstrate the feasibility to use single mosquito for viral metagenomics, which can provide much more precise virome profiles of mosquito populations. Interspecific comparisons show striking differences in abundance and diversity between the viromes of Ae. aegypti and Cx. quinquefasciatus. Those two mosquito species seem to have their own relatively stable "core eukaryotic virome", which might have important implications for the competence to transmit important medically relevant arboviruses. The presence of Wolbachia in Cx. quinquefasciatus might explain (1) the lower overall viral load compared to Ae. aegypti, (2) the identification of multiple unknown phage contigs, and (3) the difference in competence for important human pathogens. How these viruses, phages, and bacteria influence the physiology and vector competence of mosquito hosts warrants further research.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s40168-019-0734-2DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6714450PMC
August 2019

Signature of natural resistance in NS3 protease revealed by deep sequencing of HCV strains circulating in Iran.

Infect Genet Evol 2019 11 16;75:103966. Epub 2019 Jul 16.

KU Leuven, Rega Institute for Medical Research, Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Transplantation, Laboratory of Clinical and Epidemiological Virology, 3000 Leuven, Belgium; Health Policy Research Center, Institute of Health, Shiraz University of Medical Sciences, Shiraz, Iran; Blood Transfusion Research Centre, High Institute for Research and Education in Transfusion Medicine, Hemmat Exp Way, 14665-1157 Tehran, Iran. Electronic address:

A tremendous upscale of screening and treatment strategies is required to achieve elimination of the hepatitis C virus (HCV) in Iran by 2030. Among treated patients, at least 5-10% is expected to experience treatment failure. To efficiently retreat cases with prior exposure to NS5A and NS5B drugs, knowledge on the natural prevalence of NS3 resistance is key. The NS3 region of 32 samples from sixteen Iranian HCV patients, among which 6 injecting drug users, was amplified and subjected to deep sequencing. Amplification and sequencing were successful in 29 samples. The reads were assembled to consensus sequences and showed that 6 patients were infected with HCV1a (37.5%), 7 with HCV1b (43.8%) and 3 with HCV3a (18.7%). Nucleotide identities were shared for >97% between intra-host sequences. Two patients were infected with natural resistant viruses, of which one solely comprising low frequency variants. Inferred phylogenies showed that Iranian sequences clustered together for HCV1a and HCV1b, while for HCV3a a potential recombination event was detected. We firstly report the use of deep sequencing for HCV in Iran, demonstrate the use of NS3 inhibitors as salvage therapy in case of retreatment and stress the importance for Iran to prioritize drug users for screening and treatment.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.meegid.2019.103966DOI Listing
November 2019

Proficiency Testing of Virus Diagnostics Based on Bioinformatics Analysis of Simulated High-Throughput Sequencing Data Sets.

J Clin Microbiol 2019 08 26;57(8). Epub 2019 Jul 26.

Robert Koch Institute, Centre for Biological Threats and Special Pathogens 1, Berlin, Germany.

Quality management and independent assessment of high-throughput sequencing-based virus diagnostics have not yet been established as a mandatory approach for ensuring comparable results. The sensitivity and specificity of viral high-throughput sequence data analysis are highly affected by bioinformatics processing using publicly available and custom tools and databases and thus differ widely between individuals and institutions. Here we present the results of the COMPARE [llaborative anagement latform for Detection and nalyses of (e-)emerging and Foodborne Outbreaks in urope] virus proficiency test. An artificial, simulated data set of Illumina HiSeq sequences was provided to 13 different European institutes for bioinformatics analysis to identify viral pathogens in high-throughput sequence data. Comparison of the participants' analyses shows that the use of different tools, programs, and databases for bioinformatics analyses can impact the correct identification of viral sequences from a simple data set. The identification of slightly mutated and highly divergent virus genomes has been shown to be most challenging. Furthermore, the interpretation of the results, together with a fictitious case report, by the participants showed that in addition to the bioinformatics analysis, the virological evaluation of the results can be important in clinical settings. External quality assessment and proficiency testing should become an important part of validating high-throughput sequencing-based virus diagnostics and could improve the harmonization, comparability, and reproducibility of results. There is a need for the establishment of international proficiency testing, like that established for conventional laboratory tests such as PCR, for bioinformatics pipelines and the interpretation of such results.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/JCM.00466-19DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6663916PMC
August 2019

Gut Virome Analysis of Cameroonians Reveals High Diversity of Enteric Viruses, Including Potential Interspecies Transmitted Viruses.

mSphere 2019 01 23;4(1). Epub 2019 Jan 23.

Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Rega Institute for Medical Research, Laboratory of Viral Metagenomics, KU Leuven-University of Leuven, Leuven, Belgium

Diarrhea remains one of the most common causes of deaths in children. A limited number of studies have investigated the prevalence of enteric pathogens in Cameroon, and as in many other African countries, the cause of many diarrheal episodes remains unexplained. A proportion of these unknown cases of diarrhea are likely caused by yet-unidentified viral agents, some of which could be the result of (recent) interspecies transmission from animal reservoirs, like bats. Using viral metagenomics, we screened fecal samples of 221 humans (almost all with gastroenteritis symptoms) between 0 and 89 years of age with different degrees of bat contact. We identified viruses belonging to families that are known to cause gastroenteritis such as , , , , and Interestingly, a mammalian orthoreovirus, picobirnaviruses, a smacovirus, and a pecovirus were also found. Although there was no evidence of interspecies transmission of the most common human gastroenteritis-related viruses (, , and ), the phylogenies of the identified orthoreovirus, picobirnavirus, and smacovirus indicate a genetic relatedness of these viruses identified in stools of humans and those of bats and/or other animals. These findings points out the possibility of interspecies transmission or simply a shared host of these viruses (bacterial, fungal, parasitic, …) present in both animals (bats) and humans. Further screening of bat viruses in humans or vice versa will elucidate the epidemiological potential threats of animal viruses to human health. Furthermore, this study showed a huge diversity of highly divergent novel phages, thereby expanding the existing phageome considerably. Despite the availability of diagnostic tools for different enteric viral pathogens, a large fraction of human cases of gastroenteritis remains unexplained. This could be due to pathogens not tested for or novel divergent viruses of potential animal origin. Fecal virome analyses of Cameroonians showed a very diverse group of viruses, some of which are genetically related to those identified in animals. This is the first attempt to describe the gut virome of humans from Cameroon. Therefore, the data represent a baseline for future studies on enteric viral pathogens in this area and contribute to our knowledge of the world's virome. The studies also highlight the fact that more viruses may be associated with diarrhea than the typical known ones. Hence, it provides meaningful epidemiological information on diarrhea-related viruses in this area.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/mSphere.00585-18DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6344602PMC
January 2019

Discovery and genome characterization of three new Jeilongviruses, a lineage of paramyxoviruses characterized by their unique membrane proteins.

BMC Genomics 2018 Aug 16;19(1):617. Epub 2018 Aug 16.

Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Laboratory of Clinical Virology, Rega Institute for Medical Research, KU Leuven - University of Leuven, Herestraat 49, Box 1040, BE3000, Leuven, Belgium.

Background: In the past decade, many new paramyxoviruses that do not belong to any of the seven established genera in the family Paramyxoviridae have been discovered. Amongst them are J-virus (JPV), Beilong virus (BeiPV) and Tailam virus (TlmPV), three paramyxovirus species found in rodents. Based on their similarities, it has been suggested that these viruses should compose a new genus, tentatively called 'Jeilongvirus'.

Results: Here we present the complete genomes of three newly discovered paramyxoviruses, one found in a bank vole (Myodes glareolus) from Slovenia and two in a single, co-infected Rungwe brush-furred rat (Lophuromys machangui) from Mozambique, that represent three new, separate species within the putative genus 'Jeilongvirus'. The genome organization of these viruses is similar to other paramyxoviruses, but like JPV, BeiPV and TlmPV, they possess an additional open reading frame, encoding a transmembrane protein, that is located between the F and G genes. As is the case for all Jeilongviruses, the G genes of the viruses described here are unusually large, and their encoded proteins are characterized by a remarkable amino acid composition pattern that is not seen in other paramyxoviruses, but resembles certain motifs found in Orthopneumovirus G proteins.

Conclusions: The phylogenetic clustering of JPV, BeiPV and TlmPV with the viruses described here, as well as their shared features that set them apart from other paramyxoviruses, provide additional support for the recognition of the genus 'Jeilongvirus'.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12864-018-4995-0DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6097224PMC
August 2018

Nanopore sequencing as a revolutionary diagnostic tool for porcine viral enteric disease complexes identifies porcine kobuvirus as an important enteric virus.

Sci Rep 2018 06 29;8(1):9830. Epub 2018 Jun 29.

Ghent University, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Department of Virology, Parasitology and Immunology, Laboratory of Virology, Merelbeke, Belgium.

Enteric diseases in swine are often caused by different pathogens and thus metagenomics are a useful tool for diagnostics. The capacities of nanopore sequencing for viral diagnostics were investigated here. First, cell culture-grown porcine epidemic diarrhea virus and rotavirus A were pooled and sequenced on a MinION. Reads were already detected at 7 seconds after start of sequencing, resulting in high sequencing depths (19.2 to 103.5X) after 3 h. Next, diarrheic feces of a one-week-old piglet was analyzed. Almost all reads (99%) belonged to bacteriophages, which may have reshaped the piglet's microbiome. Contigs matched Bacteroides, Escherichia and Enterococcus phages. Moreover, porcine kobuvirus was discovered in the feces for the first time in Belgium. Suckling piglets shed kobuvirus from one week of age, but an association between peak of viral shedding (10-10 copies/swab) and diarrheic signs was not observed during a follow-up study. Retrospective analysis showed the widespread (n = 25, 56.8% positive) of genetically moderately related kobuviruses among Belgian diarrheic piglets. MinION enables rapid detection of enteric viruses. Such new methodologies will change diagnostics, but more extensive validations should be conducted. The true enteric pathogenicity of porcine kobuvirus should be questioned, while its subclinical importance cannot be excluded.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-018-28180-9DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6026206PMC
June 2018

Cameroonian fruit bats harbor divergent viruses, including rotavirus H, bastroviruses, and picobirnaviruses using an alternative genetic code.

Virus Evol 2018 Jan 30;4(1):vey008. Epub 2018 Mar 30.

Laboratory of Viral Metagenomics.

Most human emerging infectious diseases originate from wildlife and bats are a major reservoir of viruses, a few of which have been highly pathogenic to humans. In some regions of Cameroon, bats are hunted and eaten as a delicacy. This close proximity between human and bats provides ample opportunity for zoonotic events. To elucidate the viral diversity of Cameroonian fruit bats, we collected and metagenomically screened eighty-seven fecal samples of and fruit bats. The results showed a plethora of known and novel viruses. Phylogenetic analyses of the eleven gene segments of the first complete bat rotavirus H genome, showed clearly separated clusters of human, porcine, and bat rotavirus H strains, not indicating any recent interspecies transmission events. Additionally, we identified and analyzed a bat bastrovirus genome (a novel group of recently described viruses, related to astroviruses and hepatitis E viruses), confirming their recombinant nature, and provide further evidence of additional recombination events among bat bastroviruses. Interestingly, picobirnavirus-like RNA-dependent RNA polymerase gene segments were identified using an alternative mitochondrial genetic code, and further principal component analyses suggested that they may have a similar lifestyle to mitoviruses, a group of virus-like elements known to infect the mitochondria of fungi. Although identified bat coronavirus, parvovirus, and cyclovirus strains belong to established genera, most of the identified partitiviruses and densoviruses constitute putative novel genera in their respective families. Finally, the results of the phage community analyses of these bats indicate a very diverse geographically distinct bat phage population, probably reflecting different diets and gut bacterial ecosystems.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ve/vey008DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5888411PMC
January 2018

A Novel Hantavirus of the European Mole, Bruges Virus, Is Involved in Frequent Nova Virus Coinfections.

Genome Biol Evol 2018 01;10(1):45-55

Laboratory of Clinical and Epidemiological Virology, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Rega Institute for Medical Research, KU Leuven, Belgium.

Hantaviruses are zoonotic viruses with a complex evolutionary history of virus-host coevolution and cross-species transmission. Although hantaviruses have a broad reservoir host range, virus-host relationships were previously thought to be strict, with a single virus species infecting a single host species. Here, we describe Bruges virus, a novel hantavirus harbored by the European mole (Talpa europaea), which is the well-known host of Nova virus. Phylogenetic analyses of all three genomic segments showed tree topology inconsistencies, suggesting that Bruges virus has emerged from cross-species transmission and ancient reassortment events. A high number of coinfections with Bruges and Nova viruses was detected, but no evidence was found for reassortment between these two hantaviruses. These findings highlight the complexity of hantavirus evolution and the importance of further investigation of hantavirus-reservoir relationships.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/gbe/evx268DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5758900PMC
January 2018

Viral gut metagenomics of sympatric wild and domestic canids, and monitoring of viruses: Insights from an endangered wolf population.

Ecol Evol 2017 06 27;7(12):4135-4146. Epub 2017 Apr 27.

Department of Microbiology and Immunology Laboratory of Viral Metagenomics Rega Institute for Medical Research KU Leuven - University of Leuven Leuven Belgium.

Animal host-microbe interactions are a relevant concern for wildlife conservation, particularly regarding generalist pathogens, where domestic host species can play a role in the transmission of infectious agents, such as viruses, to wild animals. Knowledge on viral circulation in wild host species is still scarce and can be improved by the recent advent of modern molecular approaches. We aimed to characterize the fecal virome and identify viruses of potential conservation relevance of diarrheic free-ranging wolves and sympatric domestic dogs from Central Portugal, where a small and threatened wolf population persists in a highly anthropogenically modified landscape. Using viral metagenomics, we screened diarrheic stools collected from wolves ( = 8), feral dogs ( = 4), and pet dogs ( = 6), all collected within wolf range. We detected novel highly divergent viruses as well as known viral pathogens with established effects on population dynamics, including canine distemper virus, a novel bocavirus, and canine minute virus. Furthermore, we performed a 4-year survey for the six wolf packs comprising this endangered wolf population, screening 93 fecal samples from 36 genetically identified wolves for canine distemper virus and the novel bocavirus, previously identified using our metagenomics approach. Our novel approach using metagenomics for viral screening in noninvasive samples of wolves and dogs has profound implications on the knowledge of both virology and wildlife diseases, establishing a complementary tool to traditional screening methods for the conservation of threatened species.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ece3.2991DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5478050PMC
June 2017

Highly diverse population of Picornaviridae and other members of the Picornavirales, in Cameroonian fruit bats.

BMC Genomics 2017 03 23;18(1):249. Epub 2017 Mar 23.

Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Rega Institute for Medical Research, Laboratory of Viral Metagenomics, KU Leuven - University of Leuven, Leuven, Belgium.

Background: The order Picornavirales represents a diverse group of positive-stranded RNA viruses with small non-enveloped icosahedral virions. Recently, bats have been identified as an important reservoir of several highly pathogenic human viruses. Since many members of the Picornaviridae family cause a wide range of diseases in humans and animals, this study aimed to characterize members of the order Picornavirales in fruit bat populations located in the Southwest region of Cameroon. These bat populations are frequently in close contact with humans due to hunting, selling and eating practices, which provides ample opportunity for interspecies transmissions.

Results: Fecal samples from 87 fruit bats (Eidolon helvum and Epomophorus gambianus), were combined into 25 pools and analyzed using viral metagenomics. In total, Picornavirales reads were found in 19 pools, and (near) complete genomes of 11 picorna-like viruses were obtained from 7 of these pools. The picorna-like viruses possessed varied genomic organizations (monocistronic or dicistronic), and arrangements of gene cassettes. Some of the viruses belonged to established families, including the Picornaviridae, whereas others clustered distantly from known viruses and most likely represent novel genera and families. Phylogenetic and nucleotide composition analyses suggested that mammals were the likely host species of bat sapelovirus, bat kunsagivirus and bat crohivirus, whereas the remaining viruses (named bat iflavirus, bat posalivirus, bat fisalivirus, bat cripavirus, bat felisavirus, bat dicibavirus and bat badiciviruses 1 and 2) were most likely diet-derived.

Conclusion: The existence of a vast genetic variability of picorna-like viruses in fruit bats may increase the probability of spillover infections to humans especially when humans and bats have direct contact as the case in this study site. However, further screening for these viruses in humans will fully indicate their zoonotic potential.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12864-017-3632-7DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5364608PMC
March 2017

Novel highly divergent reassortant bat rotaviruses in Cameroon, without evidence of zoonosis.

Sci Rep 2016 Sep 26;6:34209. Epub 2016 Sep 26.

KU Leuven - University of Leuven, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Rega Institute for Medical Research, Laboratory of Viral Metagenomics, Leuven, Belgium.

Bats are an important reservoir for zoonotic viruses. To date, only three RVA strains have been reported in bats in Kenya and China. In the current study we investigated the genetic diversity of RVAs in fecal samples from 87 straw-colored fruit bats living in close contact with humans in Cameroon using viral metagenomics. Five (near) complete RVA genomes were obtained. A single RVA strain showed a partial relationship with the Kenyan bat RVA strain, whereas the other strains were completely novel. Only the VP7 and VP4 genes showed significant variability, indicating the occurrence of frequent reassortment events. Comparing these bat RVA strains with currently used human RVA screening primers indicated that most of the novel VP7 and VP4 segments would not be detected in routine epidemiological screening studies. Therefore, novel consensus screening primers were developed and used to screen samples from infants with gastroenteritis living in close proximity with the studied bat population. Although RVA infections were identified in 36% of the infants, there was no evidence of zoonosis. This study identified multiple novel bat RVA strains, but further epidemiological studies in humans will have to assess if these viruses have the potential to cause gastroenteritis in humans.
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http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5035928PMC
http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/srep34209DOI Listing
September 2016

Modular approach to customise sample preparation procedures for viral metagenomics: a reproducible protocol for virome analysis.

Sci Rep 2015 Nov 12;5:16532. Epub 2015 Nov 12.

KU Leuven - University of Leuven, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Laboratory of Viral Metagenomics, Rega Institute for Medical Research Leuven, Belgium.

A major limitation for better understanding the role of the human gut virome in health and disease is the lack of validated methods that allow high throughput virome analysis. To overcome this, we evaluated the quantitative effect of homogenisation, centrifugation, filtration, chloroform treatment and random amplification on a mock-virome (containing nine highly diverse viruses) and a bacterial mock-community (containing four faecal bacterial species) using quantitative PCR and next-generation sequencing. This resulted in an optimised protocol that was able to recover all viruses present in the mock-virome and strongly alters the ratio of viral versus bacterial and 16S rRNA genetic material in favour of viruses (from 43.2% to 96.7% viral reads and from 47.6% to 0.19% bacterial reads). Furthermore, our study indicated that most of the currently used virome protocols, using small filter pores and/or stringent centrifugation conditions may have largely overlooked large viruses present in viromes. We propose NetoVIR (Novel enrichment technique of VIRomes), which allows for a fast, reproducible and high throughput sample preparation for viral metagenomics studies, introducing minimal bias. This procedure is optimised mainly for faecal samples, but with appropriate concentration steps can also be used for other sample types with lower initial viral loads.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/srep16532DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4642273PMC
November 2015