St. Louis researchers sequence enterovirus D68 genome

Gregory Storch, MD, led a team that sequenced the genome of enterovirus D68 circulating in St. Louis in recent months. | Courtesy of Robert Boston

Scientists and researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have sequenced this week the genome of enterovirus D68 taken from patients treated recently at St. Louis Children's Hospital.

"Having the DNA sequence of this virus enables additional research," Senior Author Gregory A. Storch, MD, the Ruth L. Siteman Professor of Pediatrics, said. "It can be used to create better diagnostic tests. It also may help us understand why this epidemic seems to be producing severe and unusual disease, and why it's spreading more extensively than in the past."

The findings are published in the Oct. 28 issue of “Emerging Infectious Diseases.”

The new data includes one complete and eight partial genome sequences, in addition to seven complete or partial sequences of the D68 virus sampled in the Midwest.

"There is currently no specific treatment and no vaccine for this virus," Storch said. "But having the DNA sequence available helps work toward both of those goals."

The data will also allow comparisons to be made and scrutinized between strains in different areas of the United States.

"The CDC has published some additional genomes from Missouri, Illinois and Kentucky," First Author Kristine M. Wylie, PhD, research instructor in pediatrics, said. "The Missouri genomes, including ours, are all very similar, but the Illinois and Kentucky genomes are different from the Missouri types, suggesting there are some distinct strains circulating in the U.S. right now. Until recently, this virus has been pretty rare.

“It would be helpful to have more data about the virus and the patients so that we can start to associate the genetic features of the virus with the severity of the disease."

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