Enterovirus 71 (EV-A71) is a major etiological agent of hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) that mainly affects young children less than five years old. The onset of severe HFMD is due to neurological complications bringing about acute flaccid paralysis and pulmonary oedema. In this review, we address how genetic events such as recombination and spontaneous mutations could change the genomic organization of EV-A71, leading to an impact on viral virulence. An understanding of the recombination mechanism of the poliovirus and non-polio enteroviruses will provide further evidence of the emergence of novel strains responsible for fatal HFMD outbreaks. We aim to see if the virulence of EV-A71 is contributed solely by the presence of fatal strains or is due to the co-operation of quasispecies within a viral population. The phenomenon of quasispecies within the poliovirus is discussed to reflect viral fitness, virulence and its implications for EV-A71. Ultimately, this review gives an insight into the evolution patterns of EV-A71 by looking into its recombination history and how spontaneous mutations would affect its virulence.
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