The genetic and antigenic diversity present in respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) strains may in part be explained by genetic drift similar to that which occurs with influenza virus B. To study drift in RSV strains, we sequenced the five membrane- associated genes, M, SH, G, F, and M2, from three sets of RSV isolates: one set of seven closely related isolates obtained over 5 years in St. Louis, MO, and two sets of four closely related RSV isolates from other communities. We found nucleotide-variable and conserved regions in all five genes, and the greatest diversity in the SH and G genes. We did not find clear evidence of genetic drift in the seven isolates from St. Louis for any of the five genes. Although the relationships between strains were usually maintained independent of the genes studied, for several isolates there was a dramatic shift in genetic relationships for one of the five genes. Our inability to demonstrate genetic drift and the dramatic shift in genetic relationships between some strains for some genes suggest that we need to better define the mechanisms and rate of change in this virus to accurately define phylogenetic relationships between strains. Copyright (C) 1999 Elsevier Science B.V.
- Genetic diversity
- Genetic drift
- Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)