Canine distemper virus (CDV) causes a severe contagious disease in a broad range of
hosts. This is the first study to genetically characterise CDV strains from four different wildlife
species in South Africa. The phylogenetic diversity of CDV is examined, using the haemagglutinin
gene. The South African wildlife CDV isolates showed a high degree of
similarity to CDV in South African domestic dogs. Phylogenetic analyses confirmed the
presence of 12 geographical lineages with CDV strains from South African wildlife falling
within the Southern African lineage. The study reveals two possible co-circulating sub-genotypes
corresponding to the northern and southern regions of South Africa respectively. CDV
strains from the non-canid species were distinct, but similar to CDV isolates from domestic
dog and wild canids. Residues at amino acid sites of the SLAM binding region support the
notion that CDV strains encoding 519I / 549H are better adapted to non-canid species than
canid species. The amino acids present at site 530 are conserved regardless of host species.
Strains from South African wild carnivores showed no difference between host species
with all strains presenting 530N. All non-canid strains in this study presented the combination
519I/549H. No evidence of host adaptation or lineage grouping was observed for the
Nectin-4 binding region. Further studies should include CDV strains isolated from various
hosts from a wider geographical range in South Africa.
S1 Table. H gene sequence isolates used in determining the phylogenetic relationship of
canine distemper virus. The accession number, host species, year and country of origin
(when available) are indicated for each strain. South African strains isolated for this study indicated
with asterisk ( ).
S2 Table. Residues at amino acid sites of the SLAM and nectin-4 cell binding regions on
the canine distemper virus H-protein, arranged in geographical lineages and host species
(domestic dog, wild canid and non-canid). The accession number, host species, year and
country of origin are indicated for each strain. South African strains isolated for this study
indicated with asterisk ( ). Identical amino acids are indicated with a dash (-), varying amino
acids are indicated by single letter amino acid codes.