Viral recombination is critical to understanding the evolution of viral groups and impacts vaccine design, but is poorly understood. In the poliovirus vaccine, recombination is one potential mode of failure where vaccine strains recombine to produce a pathogenic product. We combine gene synthesis and deep sequencing to generate a high-resolution recombination map of poliovirus, both as a model RNA virus and a continuing threat that has yet to be eradicated. This map shows that recombination is concentrated into hotspots and suggests that predictable and alterable motifs in the RNA sequence are associated with recombination frequency. We demonstrate the utility of these observations by re-designing a poliovirus strain to recombine more frequently than normal, facilitating future studies on the role of viral recombination during infection. This result suggests that a large-scale redesign of the entire poliovirus genome to dampen recombination may be feasible, with implications for producing safer and more stable live vaccines.
Via Ed Rybicki