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Published in APPLIED AND ENVIRONMENTAL MICROBIOLOGY, Nov. 2006, p. 6886–6893, Vol. 72, No. 11.


We present the first detailed phylogenetic analysis of Buggy Creek virus (BCRV), a poorly known alphavirus with transmission cycles involving a cimicid swallow bug (Oeciacus vicarius) vector and cliff swallows (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota) and house sparrows (Passer domesticus) as the principal avian hosts. Nucleotide sequences of a 2,075-bp viral envelope glycoprotein-coding region, covering the entire PE2 gene, were determined for 33 BCRV isolates taken from swallow bugs at cliff swallow colonies in Nebraska and Colorado in the summer of 2001 and were compared with the corresponding region of BCRV isolates collected from Oklahoma in the 1980s. We also analyzed isolates of the closely related Fort Morgan virus (FMV) collected from Colorado in the 1970s. Phylogenetic analysis indicated that BCRV falls into the western equine encephalomyelitis complex of alphaviruses, in agreement with antigenic results and a previous alphavirus phylogeny based on the E1 coding region. We found four distinct BCRV/FMV clades, one each unique to Nebraska, Colorado, and Oklahoma and one containing isolates from both Nebraska and Colorado. BCRV isolates within the two clades from Nebraska showed 5.7 to 6.2% nucleotide divergence and 0.7 to 1.9% amino acid divergence, and within these clades, we found multiple subclades. Nebraska subclades tended to be confined to one or a few cliff swallow colonies that were close to each other in space, although in some cases, near-identical isolates were detected at sites up to 123 km apart. Viral gene flow occurs when cliff swallows move (bugs) between colony sites, and the genetic structure of BCRV may reflect the limited dispersal abilities of its insect vector.

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