Background. The ubiquitous human pathogens, herpes simplex virus (HSV)-1 and HSV-2, are distinct viral species that diverged approximately 6 million years ago. At least 4 small, ancient HSV-1 × HSV-2 interspecies recombination events have affected the HSV-2 genome, with recombinants and nonrecombinants at each locus circulating today. However, it is unknown whether interspecies recombination can affect other loci and whether new recombinants continue to be generated. Methods. Using 255 newly sequenced and 230 existing HSV genome sequences, we comprehensively assessed interspecies recombination in HSV. Results. Our findings show that the sizes and locations of interspecies recombination events in HSV-2 are significantly more variable than previously appreciated and that they can impact species-specific T-cell recognition of HSV. Conclusions. We describe 2 large (>5 kb) recombination events, one of which arose in its current host, demonstrating that interspecies recombination continues to occur today. These results raise concerns about the use of live-attenuated HSV-2 vaccines in high HSV-1 prevalence areas.

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Keywords genome, herpes simplex virus, phylogeny, recombination, T-cells
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Journal The Journal of Infectious Diseases
Casto, A.M., Roychoudhury, P., Xie, H, Selke, S, Perchetti, G.A., Wofford, H., … Greninger, A.L. (2020). Large, Stable, Contemporary Interspecies Recombination Events in Circulating Human Herpes Simplex Viruses. The Journal of Infectious Diseases, 221(8), 1271–1279. doi:10.1093/infdis/jiz199