We have cultured Cowpox virus (CPXV) from skin lesion material of a human patient from Austria. Phylogenetic comparison of the HA-gene revealed a rather homogeneous cluster with other local isolates from recent years, the A36R-gene was mostly related to elephant derived strains from Germany. Despite causing disease in human, the isolate AT/Carinthia/788/07 surprisingly even at high titers showed a highly reduced virulence in BALB/c mice upon intranasal inoculation as compared to vaccinia virus. This contrasts earlier reports on other CPXV isolates. Using shotgun DNA sequencing several insertions and deletions were found in genes presumably involved in host range, immune regulation as well as established virulence factors. These preliminary data could be an indication that CPXV strains with proven pathogenicity for humans may have reduced virulence in mice and vice versa. Additionally strains with a reduced virulence may have an advantage in persisting in less dense rodent populations.
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