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According to their endemism, orthopoxviruses (OPXVs) can be further separated into New World and Old World OPXVs. Seven different types of viruses make up the Old World or African-Eurasian OPXV group: VARV, VACV, MPXV, CPXV, Camelpox virus (CMLV), Ectromelia virus (ECTV), and Taterapox virus (TATV). Three endemic viruses from North America make up the New World OPXV group: Raccoonpox virus (RCNV), Volepox virus (VPXV), and Skunkpox virus (SKPV). Skunkpox, volepox, and raccoonpox virus genomes were sequenced and annotated in their entirety. Although these viruses are all orthopoxviruses, phylogenetic analysis of their genomes shows that they represent a separate clade from the other known species. The diversity of this clade's gene content is due to a very limited number of insertions/deletions, although only two open reading frames appear to be exclusive to this group of viruses. If these genomes are made available, it will be possible to establish whether the skunkpox virus has the qualities that make the raccoonpox virus a good candidate for a vaccine.
Background of Skunkpox Virus
Skunkpox viruses are dsDNA viruses that reproduce in the cytoplasm of infected eukaryotic cells. Colfax, Washington (USA), is where the SKPV-WA was isolated in 1978. It is unknown, though, if these infections were linked to any serious illnesses. In support of prior genome hybridization investigations, early DNA sequencing of individual genes revealed that these NAOVs were more divergent than the Old World African and Eurasian orthopoxviruses and that, despite appearing to constitute a different clade, they were likely still orthopoxviruses.
Epidemiology of Skunkpox
Raccoonpox virus (RACV), Skunkpox virus (SKPV) and Volepox virus (VPXV) comprises a monophyletic sister group within the North American orthopoxviruses (NA OPXV) clade. The gap between the two clades (NA OPXV and other OPXV) is seen in the relative branch lengths between the NA OPXV and leading other orthopoxviruses, showing that the NA OPXV have substantially greater distances between species than are seen among the recognized African and Eurasian OPXV species. A monophyletic Yatapoxvirus clade outside the OPXV clade is sister to a more significant non-OPXV clade. Two clades make up this non-OPXV/non-Yatapoxvirus clade. According to earlier investigations, Deerpox virus (DPV) isolates belong to a clade of Capripoxviruses.