Genome sequencing reveals Zika virus diversity and spread in the Americas

Metsky HC, Matranga CB, Wohl S, Schaffner SF, ..., Rambaut A, ..., Yozwiak NL, MacInnis BL & Sabeti PC

(2017) Nature 546, 411?415.

Despite great attention given to the recent Zika virus (ZIKV) epidemic in the Americas and its link to birth defects1,2, much remains unknown about ZIKV disease epidemiology and ZIKV evolution, in part due to a lack of genomic data. We applied multiple sequencing approaches to generate 110 ZIKV genomes from clinical and mosquito samples from 10 countries and territories, greatly expanding the observed viral genetic diversity from this outbreak. We analyzed the timing and patterns of introductions into distinct geographic regions; our phylogenetic evidence suggests rapid expansion of the outbreak in Brazil and multiple introductions of outbreak strains into Puerto Rico, Honduras, Colombia, other Caribbean islands, and the continental US. We find that ZIKV circulated undetected in multiple regions for many months before the first locally transmitted cases were confirmed, highlighting the importance of viral surveillance. We identify mutations with possible functional implications for ZIKV biology and pathogenesis, as well as those potentially relevant to the effectiveness of diagnostic tests.

Andrew Rambaut, 2007