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Genetic diversity of G1P[8] rotavirus VP7 and VP8* antigens in Finland over a 20-year period: No evidence for selection pressure by universal mass vaccination with RotaTeq® vaccine.


Two live-attenuated oral vaccines (Rotarix™ and Rotateq®) against rotavirus gastroenteritis were licensed in 2006 and have been introduced into National Immunization Programs (NIPs) of several countries. Large scale use of rotavirus vaccines might cause antigenic pressure on circulating rotavirus types or lead to selection of new rotaviruses thus decreasing vaccine efficacy. We examined the nucleotide and amino acid sequences of the surface proteins VP7 and VP4 (cleaved to VP8() and VP5()) of a total of 108 G1P[8] rotavirus strains collected over a 20-year period from 1992, including the years 2006-2009 when rotavirus vaccine (mainly Rotarix™) was available, and the years 2009-2012 after implementation of RotaTeq® vaccine into the NIP of Finland. In G1 VP7 no changes at amino acid level were observed. In VP8() periodical fluctuation of the sublineage over the study period was found with multiple changes both at nucleotide and amino acid levels. Most amino acid changes were in the dominant antigenic epitopes of VP8(). A change in VP8() sublineage occurred between 2008 and 2009, with a temporal correlation to the use of Rotarix™ up to 30% coverage in the period. In contrast, no antigenic changes in the VP8() protein appeared to be correlated to the exclusive use of RotaTeq® vaccine after 2009. Nevertheless, long-term surveillance of antigenic changes in VP4 and also VP7 proteins in wild-type rotavirus strains is warranted in countries with large scale use of the currently licensed live oral rotavirus vaccines.