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Betaherpesvirus evolution went wild in hominines

If when you think about deep viral evolution you are mostly interested in ancient host jumps then cytomegaloviruses (CMV; members of the Betaherpesvirinae subfamily) were really boring until today! It is a bit of an exaggeration to write this because, while we just published a paper very convincingly showing that CMV jumped between hominine lineages a long time ago, Fabian, Bernhard and other colleagues had already put forward this hypothesis about a decade ago. We just built on their elegant hypothesis, putting it to the test using tons of CMV sequences generated from nearly all African great ape species/subspecies which we used to run thorough phylogenetic analyses in a Bayesian framework.

Our results clearly demonstrate that in this primate lineage CMVs were exchanged twice (and in reciprocity!) between the gorilla and the panine lineages. These jumps took place before the divergence of present-day panines (the split of bonobos and all chimp subspecies is about 800ky old) but never after that so you can still clearly see CMVs co-diverging within panines.

In the end, quite an interesting pattern, which also adds to a growing body of evidence showing that dsDNA viruses have had a much more chaotic association with their hosts than previoulsy thought.

And another great collaboration between the Calvignac-Spencer, Leendertz and Ehlers labs!;-)

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