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HKU1 Recombination With SARS CoV-like Sequences

Recombinomics Commentary
January 15, 2005

HKU1 is novel class 2 recombinant coronavirus isolated from two patients with pneumonia during the SARS CoV pandemic.  Much of the genome of this virus was generated via recombination between two well characterized types of class 2 cornaviruses, including the human coronavirus OC43 which is associated with human colds..  However, the virus also has limited regions with evidence of recombination with SARS CoV related genes, further demonstrating the ability of coronaviruses to rapidly evolve via recombination.

The same type of rapid evolution is seen in H5N1 avian influenza. The recombination in HKU1 provides another example of the rapid genetic change associated with dual infections.

The recombinations also point to the danger presented by asymptomatic ducks harboring lethal H5N1, which can recombine with other viruses  to create more genetic instability in the bird flu reservoir in Asia.

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