A new variant of echovirus 4 associated with a large outbreak of aseptic meningitis

Rachel Handsher, Lester M. Shulman, Batia Abramovitz, Ilana Silberstein, Mina Neuman, Michal Tepperberg-Oikawa, Tamar Fisher, Ella Mendelson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: A large outbreak of aseptic meningitis which began in April 1997 involved hundreds of cases in all geographical regions of Israel and the Palestinian Authority, peaked between June and September, and lasted until December. Objectives: We have investigated the virus associated with the outbreak to determine its serotype and molecular type and to establish epidemiological links. Design: Virus strains isolated from 210 clinical samples were serotyped by neutralization using LBM and WHO antiserum pools and two echovirus 4 (EV4)-specific antisera, and by immunofluorescence using a monoclonal antibody. RNA was extracted and a 435 base long fragment derived from the 5'UTR of the genome was amplified by RT-PCR using common primers, and sequenced. Sequences were compared to echoviruses 4, 6 and 7 prototypes from ATCC, and to other echoviruses sequences from the EMBL/Genbank data base. Results: The outbreak isolates were identified by the EV4 type-specific antisera and the monoclonal antibody but not with the WHO pools. Very few isolates could be typed by the LBM pools. The EV4 isolates accounted for 68% of all enterovirus isolates in our laboratory in 1997. The age distribution of the patients was: 0-11 month, 11.2%; 1-4 years, 16.1%; 5-9 years, 31.8%; 10-14 years, 9.9%; 15-20 years, 9.5%; 21-44 years, 21.5%; and > 45 years, 0%. Males between 1 and 14 years of age were affected more frequently than females of the same age. The sequences of 25 of 28 EV4 isolates analyzed were closely related to each other (> 95% homology) and the remaining three isolates had < 95% homology to the others and to each other. Interestingly, the outbreak strains were less closely related to the EV4 prototype, than to several other echoviruses. Three closely related subgroups were identified which correlated with geographical distribution but the temporal distribution did not reveal links leading to the source of the outbreak. Conclusion: The outbreak was caused by a variant of EV4 which apparently did not circulate in the area before and thus was capable of causing a widespread infection.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)29-36
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Clinical Virology
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Jun 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • Echovirus 4 variant
  • Molecular analysis
  • Outbreak


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