Tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) is one of the most important viral zoonosis transmitted by the bite of infected ticks. In this study, all tick-borne encephalitis virus (TBEV) E gene sequences available in GenBank as of June 2019 with known date of isolation (n
= 551) were analyzed. Simulation studies showed that a sample bias could significantly affect earlier studies, because small TBEV datasets (n
= 50) produced non-overlapping intervals for evolutionary rate estimates. An apparent lack of a temporal signal in TBEV, in general, was found, precluding molecular clock analysis of all TBEV subtypes in one dataset. Within all subtypes and most of the smaller groups in these subtypes, there was evidence of many medium- and long-distance virus transfers. These multiple random events may play a key role in the virus spreading. For some groups, virus diversity within one territory was similar to diversity over the whole geographic range. This is best exemplified by the virus diversity observed in Switzerland or Czech Republic. These two countries yielded most of the known European subtype Eu3 subgroup sequences, and the diversity of viruses found within each of these small countries is comparable to that of the whole Eu3 subgroup, which is prevalent all over Central and Eastern Europe. Most of the deep tree nodes within all three established TBEV subtypes dated less than 300 years back. This could be explained by the recent emergence of most of the known TBEV diversity. Results of bioinformatics analysis presented here, together with multiple field findings, suggest that TBEV may be regarded as an emerging disease.
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