Endemic dengue associated with the co-circulation of multiple viral lineages and localized density-dependent transmission

Raghwani J, Rambaut A, Holmes EC, Vu Ty Hang, Tran Tinh Hien, Farrar J, Wills B, Lennon NJ, Birren BW, Henn MR & Simmons CP

(2011) PLoS Pathog 7, e1002064.

Dengue is one of the most important infectious diseases of humans and has spread throughout much of the tropical and subtropical world. Despite this widespread dispersal, the determinants of dengue transmission in endemic populations are not well understood, although essential for virus control. To address this issue we performed a phylogeographic analysis of 751 complete genome sequences of dengue 1 virus (DENV-1) sampled from both rural (Dong Thap) and urban (Ho Chi Minh City) populations in southern Viet Nam during the period 2003-2008. We show that DENV-1 in Viet Nam exhibits strong spatial clustering, with likely importation from Cambodia on multiple occasions. Notably, multiple lineages of DENV-1 co-circulated in Ho Chi Minh City. That these lineages emerged at approximately the same time and dispersed over similar spatial regions suggests that they are of broadly equivalent fitness. We also observed an important relationship between the density of the human host population and the dispersion rate of dengue, such that DENV-1 tends to move from urban to rural populations, and that densely populated regions within Ho Chi Minh City act as major transmission foci. Despite these fluid dynamics, the dispersion rates of DENV-1 are relatively low, particularly in Ho Chi Minh City where the virus moves less than an average of 20 km/year. These low rates suggest a major role for mosquito-mediated dispersal, such that DENV-1 does not need to move great distances to infect a new host when there are abundant susceptibles, and imply that control measures should be directed toward the most densely populated urban environments.

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Andrew Rambaut, 2007