Proposals for the classification of human rhinovirus species C into genotypically assigned types.
Simmonds P., McIntyre C., Savolainen-Kopra C., Tapparel C., Mackay IM., Hovi T.
Human rhinoviruses (HRVs) are common respiratory pathogens associated with mild upper respiratory tract infections, but also increasingly recognized in the aetiology of severe lower respiratory tract disease. Wider use of molecular diagnostics has led to a recent reappraisal of HRV genetic diversity, including the discovery of HRV species C (HRV-C), which is refractory to traditional virus isolation procedures. Although it is heterogeneous genetically, there has to date been no attempt to classify HRV-C into types analogous to the multiple serotypes identified for HRV-A and -B and among human enteroviruses. Direct investigation of cross-neutralization properties of HRV-C is precluded by the lack of methods for in vitro culture, but sequences from the capsid genes (VP1 and partial VP4/VP2) show evidence for marked phylogenetic clustering, suggesting the possibility of a genetically based system comparable to that used for the assignment of new enterovirus types. We propose a threshold of 13% divergence for VP1 nucleotide sequences for type assignment, a level that classifies the current dataset of 86 HRV-C VP1 sequences into a total of 33 types. We recognize, however, that most HRV-C sequence data have been collected in the VP4/VP2 region (currently 701 sequences between positions 615 and 1043). We propose a subsidiary classification of variants showing > 10% divergence in VP4/VP2, but lacking VP1 sequences, to 28 provisionally assigned types (subject to confirmation once VP1 sequences are determined). These proposals will assist in future epidemiological and clinical studies of HRV-C conducted by different groups worldwide, and provide the foundation for future exploration of type-associated differences in clinical presentations and biological properties.