Kholodolov et al.
Distribution and characterisation of tick-borne flavi-, flavi-like, and phenuiviruses in the Chelyabinsk region of Russia
Viruses. 2022;14(12):2699. doi:10.3390/v14122699

The Chelyabinsk region is located in south-central Russia and borders Kazakhstan. There are three natural zones in this territory: mountain forests, forest steppe and steppe. The region is inhabited by various tick species. In the mountain forest zone, only Ixodes persulcatus can be found; in the forest-steppe zone, I. persulcatus and Dermacentor reticulatus are present; and in the steppe zone, mostly D. reticulatus and D. marginatus can be detected.

The entire region of Chelyabinsk is endemic for TBE virus. In 2014/15, a total of 3960 ticks have been collected – 1275 I. persulcatus, 1063 D. reticulatus and 1622 D. marginatus ticks. While no TBE virus-specific RNA could be detected in Dermacentor ticks, three strains of TBE virus could be isolated from I. persulcatus. Genome analyses showed that these isolates belonged to the Zausaev group of the Siberian subtype.

Besides TBE virus, segmented flaviviruses were found, e.g., Alongshan virus, and Yanggou virus. Alongshan virus was found to be associated with I. persulcatus ticks in the forest zone, and Yanggou virus was found in Dermacentor ticks, mostly in D. marginatus. In addition, the phlebovirus Gomselga and unclassified phenuivirus Stavropol were found in I. persulcatus and D. reticulatus ticks.

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