This study explores the D-4 escape measles mutant, a strain that has emerged in countries that have intense vaccination.
Measles virus is a paradigmatic RNA virus, as the antigenic composition of the vaccination has not needed to be updated since its discovery. The vaccine confers protection by inducing neutralizing antibodies that interfere with the function of the hemagglutinin protein. Viral strains are indistinguishable serologically, although characteristic nucleotide sequences differentiate 24 genotypes. In this work, we describe a distant evolutionary branch within genotype D4. Designated subgenotype D4.2, this virus is distinguishable by neutralization with vaccine-induced monoclonal antibodies that target the neutralizing epitope (NE). The subgenotype D4.2 viruses have a higher predominance in countries with intermediary levels of vaccine coverage. Our studies demonstrate that subgenotype D4.2 lacks epitopes associated with half of the known antigenic sites, which significantly impacts our understanding of measles virus evolution.