Evolution of virulence in picornaviruses

S. Tracy, N. M. Chapman, K. M. Drescher, K. Kono, W. Tapprich

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


The Picornaviridae encompass many positive-strand RNA viruses, all of which share a generally similar genome design and capsid structure, but which induce quite diverse diseases in humans and other animals. Picornavirus strains of the same serotype have been shown to express different virulence (or pathogenic) phenotypes when studied in animal models, demonstrating that key elements of pathogenesis reside in the viral genome. However, the genetics that determine the virulence phenotype of any picornavirus are poorly understood. Picornaviruses do not have virulence genes per se, but the design of the capsid and how it interacts with the virus receptor expressed on the host cell surface, specific sequences within the nontranslated regions of the viral genome, as well as coding sequences that result in different protein sequences may all have a part in determining the virulence phenotype. Virulence may be better understood as a continuum from an apparent inability to induce disease to the ability to cause severe pathogenic changes. Ultimately, the ability of a picornavirus to induce disease depends upon viral genetics and how they are modulated by the host environment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)193-209
Number of pages17
JournalCurrent topics in microbiology and immunology
StatePublished - 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Microbiology (medical)


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