Can the origin of the West Nile virus be traced via it's DNA? : LUSENET : TB2K spinoff uncensored : One Thread

Pardon my ignorance, but this is not my area of expertise. I suppose I am slightly off-topic, although I'm not sure how one would prove it--

In the December 1999 issue of _Lancet_, Dr. Ian Lipkin describes how he sequenced the DNA of the WNV, proving it's identity and that it was"...virtually identical to a West Nile virus that was found in an outbreak in Israel in 1998. It is also very similar to a virus found in Egypt..."

Published reports also state that the US CDC sold live WNV to Iraq on at least 3 occasion ca. 1985. (Sen. McCain comments on this at: see page S16012)

So my question is: Can the DNA sequence of the WNV found in NY in 1999 be compared with the samples sold to Iraq (or anyone else) by the CDC?

Although the official position is that "there is no evidence that this outbreak is the result of a terrorist attack", well, there is no evidence of alot of things. But a lack of evidence proves nothing.

Thanks in advance for your thoughts.

-- Carol (, August 02, 2000


This reminded me of something that came over one of my ListServs last week. I only mention it because it seems odd that I haven't seen any other news coverage of this new finding anywhere:

Source: The Post-Standard (Syracuse, NY), 29 Jul 2000 [edited]

West Nile Virus Found in Liverpool, up-state N.Y. ------------------------------------------------ Onondaga County health officials ordered an emergency spraying of pesticides Friday night in the Liverpool area after learning that a dead crow found in the village was infected with West Nile virus. The spraying over a 2-mile radius in and around the village continued until 2 a.m. today to kill mosquitoes that can transmit the rare encephalitis virus from birds to humans. Mosquito larvicides will be applied in the same area next week.

The discovery of the virus in the Liverpool crow makes Onondaga County the northernmost spot in the United States where the virus has been confirmed,and that has officials closely watching the situation here. Earlier this week, health officials in Massachusetts confirmed the presence of the virus in a dead bird found in a Boston city park. In New York state, the virus had not spread north of Ulster County

So far, there is no reason to believe the virus is present in the local mosquito population, Novick said. Tests on about 200 pools of mosquitoes collected this summer showed no evidence of West Nile virus. Onondaga County and most Central New York health departments began a surveillance program for the virus this summer, collecting dead birds and sending them to the state's Wildlife Pathology Laboratory and state Health Department lab for testing. Since the beginning of the mosquito season, the Onondaga County Health Department received 60 calls about dead birds, said Robert Burdick, the county's environmental health director. As a result of those calls, 30 birds were collected and sent to the state laboratories. Eighteen of the dead birds sent for testing were crows. At 1 p.m. Friday, state health officials called Novick's office to confirm the West Nile virus had infected a young crow found dead July 17 on Tamarack Street in Liverpool. Because the crow had only recently left the nest, health officials said it is highly unlikely the bird flew into Onondaga County from another area where the virus has been detected.

Pirro said the county has experience in dealing with mosquito-borne diseases because Eastern equine encephalitis is endemic to Cicero Swamp. The county operates an annual mosquito testing and surveillance program for EEE virus, a rare but sometimes deadly virus. Only two case of EEE have been confirmed in the past 30 years in Central New York - one that resulted in the death of a 7-year-old Onondaga County boy in 1983 and another case that killed a 2-year-old Oswego County boy in 1973. When the West Nile virus made its entry into the United States in New York City last summer, state health officials turned to Onondaga County's experts for help.Several members of the county health department traveled to Queens to help set up a mosquito surveillance program for the new virus. Novick said it is unlikely the test result gave a false reading for the presence of the virus in the Liverpool crow. The dead crow's heart, spleen and kidney were each tested twice to confirm the infection with West Nile, he said.

[Byline: Mark Weiner]

(Liverpool is located in central New York, approximately 120 miles west of Albany and Saratoga Springs. )

I don't know if what you are suggesting can be done or not, Carol. but you make some intriquing points. Anyone know who to ask about this? The CDC maybe?

-- (Thingsthatmakeyou@go.scratchscratch), August 03, 2000.

It has been a while since I left the research field and I know little about WNV. The ability to trace it to its origin by this method will depend on the fidelity of replication in WNV. I just don't know what that value is. If they can confirm identity between the NY isolate and a 1998 Israel isolate and an earlier Egyptian isolate, it wouldn't seem too promising. You will need to consult someone with this kind of information; ie. someone working with this specific virus [remember that HIV was reported to have sequences which were changed once every 1500 cycles].

-- Gregor (, August 03, 2000.

Looks like I spoke too soon: from today's NYT (reg req'd)

"The number of birds and mosquitoes testing positive for West Nile virus in New York State is accelerating rapidly, state health officials reported yesterday, in a finding that is inspiring yet more rounds of pesticide spraying in New York City, Suffolk County and other areas.

As of the end of July, the state had confirmed 67 infected birds and 25 samples of mosquitoes that were carrying the virus. But in just the last two days, those totals jumped to 115 birds and 38 samples of mosquitoes, state officials said.

No human cases of the mosquito-borne virus have been reported so far this year."


-- (still@scratching.itchy), August 03, 2000.

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