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Zika virus in the Americas: Early epidemiological and genetic findings

Science  24 Mar 2016:

DOI: 10.1126/science.aaf5036

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Abstract

Brazil has experienced an unprecedented epidemic of Zika virus (ZIKV), with ~30,000 cases reported to date. ZIKV was first detected in Brazil in May 2015 and cases of microcephaly potentially associated with ZIKV infection were identified in November 2015. Using next generation sequencing we generated seven Brazilian ZIKV genomes, sampled from four self-limited cases, one blood donor, one fatal adult case, and one newborn with microcephaly and congenital malformations. Phylogenetic and molecular clock analyses show a single introduction of ZIKV into the Americas, estimated to have occurred between May-Dec 2013, more than 12 months prior to the detection of ZIKV in Brazil. The estimated date of origin coincides with an increase in air passengers to Brazil from ZIKV endemic areas, and with reported outbreaks in Pacific Islands. ZIKV genomes from Brazil are phylogenetically interspersed with those from other South American and Caribbean countries. Mapping mutations onto existing structural models revealed the context of viral amino acid changes present in the outbreak lineage; however no shared amino acid changes were found among the three currently available virus genomes from microcephaly cases. Municipality-level incidence data indicate that reports of suspected microcephaly in Brazil best correlate with ZIKV incidence around week 17 of pregnancy, although this does not demonstrate causation. Our genetic description and analysis of ZIKV isolates in Brazil provide a baseline for future studies of the evolution and molecular epidemiology in the Americas of this emerging virus.

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