Measles virus genotype D4 strains with non-standard length M-F non-coding region circulated during the major outbreaks of 2011-2012 in Spain.
In recent decades, vaccination has substantially reduced the number of measles cases to levels close to the elimination stage. However, major measles outbreaks occurred in Europe during 2010-2012, after the introduction of the D4-Enfield lineage. We have performed a molecular characterization of 75 measles virus genotype D4 strains from patients infected in Spain between 2004 and 2012 by sequencing the N-450 region and the M-F non-coding region (M-F NCR) in order to identify genetic features of these viruses. The analysis of the N-450 region confirmed that all samples obtained since 2008 belonged to variants or sets of identical sequences of the D4-Enfield lineage, including a new one named MVs/Madrid.ESP/46.10/. Analysis of the M-F NCR showed insertions and deletions associated with previously described, uncommon non-standard genome length measles viruses. This genetic feature was identified in the D4-Enfield lineage viruses, but not in the other D4 viruses that were circulating in Spain before 2008, suggesting that these non-standard length M-F NCR sequences are characteristic of the D4-Enfield lineage. The results of the phylogenetic analysis of Spanish M-F NCRs suggest higher resolution in discriminating strains than did the N-450 analysis. In addition, the results of the analysis of the M-F NCR on the MVs/Madrid.ESP/46.10/ sub-lineage seem to support the potential utility of this region as a tool for epidemiological surveillance complementary to the N-450 region, as previously suggested. Further investigation on this question, as well as the surveillance of new potentially emerging strains with non-standard length M-F NCR are strongly recommended as part of future strategies for measles elimination.