Molecular epidemiology of enterovirus 71, coxsackievirus A16 and A6 associated with hand, foot and mouth disease in Spain



Hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) is a childhood illness frequently caused by genotypes belonging to the enterovirus A species, including coxsackievirus (CV)-A16 and enterovirus (EV)-71. Between 2010 and 2012, several outbreaks and sporadic cases of HFMD occurred in different regions of Spain. The objective of the present study was to describe the enterovirus epidemiology associated with HFMD in the country. A total of 80 patients with HFMD or atypical rash were included. Detection and typing of the enteroviruses were performed directly in clinical samples using molecular methods. Enteroviruses were detected in 53 of the patients (66%). CV-A6 was the most frequent genotype, followed by CV-A16 and EV-71, but other minority types were also identified. Interestingly, during almost all of 2010, CV-A16 was the only causative agent of HFMD but by the end of the year and during 2011, CV-A6 became predominant, while CV-A16 was not detected. In 2012, however, both CV-A6 and CV-A16 circulated. EV-71 was associated with HFMD symptoms only in three cases during 2012. All Spanish CV-A6 sequences segregated into one major genetic cluster together with other European and Asian strains isolated between 2008 and 2011, most forming a particular clade. Spanish EV-71 strains belonged to subgenogroup C2, as did most of the European sequences circulated. In conclusion, the recent increase of HFMD cases in Spain and other European countries has been due to a larger incidence of circulating species A enteroviruses, mainly CV-A6 and CV-A16, and the emergence of new genetic variants of these viruses.