Genome sequencing reveals Zika virus diversity and spread in the Americas

Despite great attention given to the recent Zika virus (ZIKV) epidemic in the Americas, much remains unknown about its epidemiology and evolution, in part due to a lack of genomic data. We applied multiple sequencing approaches to generate 100 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, confirming phylogenetic evidence for the origin and rapid expansion of the outbreak in Brazil, and for multiple introductions from Brazil into Honduras, Colombia, Puerto Rico, other Caribbean islands, and the continental US. We find that ZIKV circulated undetected in many regions of the Americas for up to a year before the first locally transmitted cases were confirmed, highlighting the challenge of effective surveillance for this virus. We further characterize genetic variation across the outbreak to identify mutations with possible functional implications for ZIKV biology and pathogenesis.

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