Genomic Epidemiology Reconstructs the Introduction and Spread of Zika Virus in Central America and Mexico

13 June 2018

Cell Host & Microbe

Thézé J, Li T, du Plessis L, Bouquet J, Kraemer MUG, Somasekar S, Yu G, de Cesare M, Balmaseda A, Kuan G, Harris E, Wu CH, Ansari MA, Bowden R, Faria NR, Yagi S, Messenger S, Brooks T, Stone M, Bloch EM, Busch M, Muñoz-Medina JE, González-Bonilla CR, Wolinsky S, López S, Arias CF, Bonsall D, Chiu CY, Pybus OG. Cell Host Microbe. 2018 Jun 13;23(6):855-864.

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The Zika virus (ZIKV) epidemic in the Americas established ZIKV as a major public health threat and uncovered its association with severe diseases, including microcephaly. However, genetic epidemiology in some at-risk regions, particularly Central America and Mexico, remains limited. We report 61 ZIKV genomes from this region, generated using metagenomic sequencing with ZIKV-specific enrichment, and combine phylogenetic, epidemiological, and environmental data to reconstruct ZIKV transmission. These analyses revealed multiple independent ZIKV introductions to Central America and Mexico. One introduction, likely from Brazil via Honduras, led to most infections and the undetected spread of ZIKV through the region from late 2014. Multiple lines of evidence indicate biannual peaks of ZIKV transmission in the region, likely driven by varying local environmental conditions for mosquito vectors and herd immunity. The spatial and temporal heterogeneity of ZIKV transmission in Central America and Mexico challenges arbovirus surveillance and disease control measures.