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Camelpox virus (CMPV) and variola virus (VAR) are orthopoxviruses (OPVs) that share several biological features and cause high mortality and morbidity in their single host species. The sequence of a virulent CMPV strain was determined; it is 202182 bp long, with inverted terminal repeats (ITRs) of 6045 bp and has 206 predicted open reading frames (ORFs). As for other poxviruses, the genes are tightly packed with little non-coding sequence. Most genes within 25 kb of each terminus are transcribed outwards towards the terminus, whereas genes within the centre of the genome are transcribed from either DNA strand. The central region of the genome contains genes that are highly conserved in other OPVs and 87 of these are conserved in all sequenced chordopoxviruses. In contrast, genes towards either terminus are more variable and encode proteins involved in host range, virulence or immunomodulation. In some cases, these are broken versions of genes found in other OPVs. The relationship of CMPV to other OPVs was analysed by comparisons of DNA and predicted protein sequences, repeats within the ITRs and arrangement of ORFs within the terminal regions. Each comparison gave the same conclusion: CMPV is the closest known virus to variola virus, the cause of smallpox.

Original publication




Journal article


Journal of General Virology


Microbiology Society

Publication Date





855 - 872