DNA Sequence Variability in Isolates Recovered from Patients with Postvaccination Rash or Herpes Zoster Caused by Oka Varicella Vaccine

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Little is known about the pathogenic potential of individual strains in the varicella vaccine. We analyzed genomic variation among specimens obtained from vaccine recipients with postvaccination rash or herpes zoster (HZ), focusing on polymorphisms between live attenuated varicella vaccine virus and wild-type varicella-zoster virus. Eleven of 18 postvaccination HZ specimens contained >1 strain, and 7 of 18 appeared to be clonal. All 21 postvaccination rash specimens contained mixtures of vaccine strains. Four single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) consistently occurred in every isolate; all were polymorphisms in open-reading frame (ORF) 62, and 2 confer amino acid substitutions in the immediate-early protein 62. Four wild-type SNPs occurred in every isolate: one each occurred in ORF 10, ORF 21, ORF 62, and a noncoding region upstream of ORF 64. The frequencies of the remaining wild-type SNPs were variable, with the SNPs uniformly expressed (even in mixtures) in 20.5%-97.4% of isolates (mean frequency, 67.7%). No 2 clinical isolates had identical SNP profiles; as such, vaccine latency usually involves >1 strain.

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