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Infection & disease

Retrovirus mutation rates and their role in genetic variation

Mansky, LM 1998, Journal of General Virology, vol. 79, pp. 1337-1345.

This study reviews information regarding retrovirus variation and the impacts it may have on the diversity and evolution of viruses, virus severity, pathogenesis, and the development of antiviral drugs and vaccines. The information produced by this study can be applied to koalas to increase our understanding of koala retrovirus, or KoRV.

  Variations in animal and human infectious viruses can occur when they pass through different species, with potential increased severity and physical impacts depending on the virus strain. This study highlights various molecular approaches for analysing retrovirus variation and mutation, ranging from biological techniques for repeating passages in cell cultures to molecular photocopying using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to isolate larger numbers of genome variants for analysis. The author highlights the importance and examples of determining the rate of retrovirus mutation, as other studies show this has a large influence on retrovirus genetic variation. Subsequently, retrovirus genes that influence this mutation rate should be determined along with rates of recombination and mixed infections of cells to better understand the genetic diversity of retroviruses and disease progression. The relative virus fitness predictability also determines the diversity of a population and is, therefore, vital to study to understand the selective pressures that may produce variants and their nature.

  A growing number of KoRV genotypes in wild and captive koalas have the potential to significantly impact the health of koala populations. This study shows the importance of understanding retrovirus mutations, and how and why genetic variations may occur, by reviewing current techniques. An increased understanding of retroviruses will improve our ability to mitigate the effects of KoRV in wild koala populations.


Summarised by Robyn Boldy


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