• The Evolution and Transmission of Epidemic GII.17 Noroviruses.

    3 July 2018

    In recent decades, the GII.4 norovirus genotype has predominated in epidemics worldwide and been associated with an increased rate of evolutionary change. In 2014, a novel GII.17 variant emerged and persisted, causing large outbreaks of gastroenteritis in China and sporadic infections globally. The origin, evolution, and transmission history of this new variant are largely unknown.We generated 103 full capsid and 8 whole-genome sequences of GII.17 strains collected between August 2013 and November 2015 in Guangdong, China. Phylogenetic analyses were performed by integrating our data with those for all publically available GII.17 sequences.The novel emergent lineage GII.17_Kawasaki_2014 most likely originated from Africa around 2001 and evolved at a rate of 5.6 × 10(-3) substitutions/site/year. Within this lineage, a new variant containing several important amino acid changes emerged around August 2013 and caused extensive epidemics in 2014-2015. The phylodynamic and epidemic history of the GII.17_Kawasaki lineage shows similarities with the pattern observed for GII.4 norovirus evolution. Virus movements from Hong Kong to neighboring coastal cities were frequently observed.Our results provide new insights into GII.17 norovirus evolution and transmission and highlight the potential for a rare norovirus genotype to rapidly replace existing strains and cause local epidemics.

  • A transitional endogenous lentivirus from the genome of a basal primate and implications for lentivirus evolution.

    3 July 2018

    Lentiviruses chronically infect a broad range of mammalian species and have been transmitted from primates to humans, giving rise to multiple outbreaks of HIV infection over the past century. Although the circumstances surrounding these recent zoonoses are becoming clearer, the nature and timescale of interaction between lentiviruses and primates remains unknown. Here, we report the discovery of an endogenous lentivirus in the genome of the gray mouse lemur (Microcebus murinus), a strepsirrhine primate from Madagascar, demonstrating that lentiviruses are capable of invading the primate germ line. Phylogenetic analysis places gray mouse lemur prosimian immunodeficiency virus (pSIVgml) basal to all known primate lentiviruses and, consistent with this, its genomic organization is intermediate between the nonprimate lentiviruses and their more derived primate counterparts. Thus, pSIVgml represents the first unambiguous example of a viral transitional form, revealing the acquisition and loss of genomic features during lentiviral evolution. Furthermore, because terrestrial mammal populations in Madagascar and Africa are likely to have been isolated from one another for at least 14 million years, the presence of pSIVgml in the gray mouse lemur genome indicates that lentiviruses must have been infecting primates for at least this period of time, or have been transmitted between Malagasy and African primate populations by a vector species capable of traversing the Mozambique channel. The discovery of pSIVgml illustrates the utility of endogenous sequences for the study of contemporary retroviruses and indicates that primate lentiviruses may be considerably older and more broadly distributed than previously thought.

  • The mode and tempo of hepatitis C virus evolution within and among hosts

    3 July 2018

    Background: Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a rapidly-evolving RNA virus that establishes chronic infections in humans. Despite the virus' public health importance and a wealth of sequence data, basic aspects of HCV molecular evolution remain poorly understood. Here we investigate three sets of whole HCV genomes in order to directly compare the evolution of whole HCV genomes at different biological levels: within- and among-hosts. We use a powerful Bayesian inference framework that incorporates both among-lineage rate heterogeneity and phylogenetic uncertainty into estimates of evolutionary parameters. Results: Most of the HCV genome evolves at ∼0.001 substitutions/site/year, a rate typical of RNA viruses. The antigenically-important E1/E2 genome region evolves particularly quickly, with correspondingly high rates of positive selection, as inferred using two related measures. Crucially, in this region an exceptionally higher rate was observed for within-host evolution compared to among-host evolution. Conversely, higher rates of evolution were seen among-hosts for functionally relevant parts of the NS5A gene. There was also evidence for slightly higher evolutionary rate for HCV subtype 1a compared to subtype 1b. Conclusions: Using new statistical methods and comparable whole genome datasets we have quantified, for the first time, the variation in HCV evolutionary dynamics at different scales of organisation. This confirms that differences in molecular evolution between biological scales are not restricted to HIV and may represent a common feature of chronic RNA viral infection. We conclude that the elevated rate observed in the E1/E2 region during within-host evolution more likely results from the reversion of host-specific adaptations (resulting in slower long-term among-host evolution) than from the preferential transmission of slowly-evolving lineages. © 2011 Gray et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

  • Virus evolution and transmission in an ever more connected world.

    3 July 2018

    The frequency and global impact of infectious disease outbreaks, particularly those caused by emerging viruses, demonstrate the need for a better understanding of how spatial ecology and pathogen evolution jointly shape epidemic dynamics. Advances in computational techniques and the increasing availability of genetic and geospatial data are helping to address this problem, particularly when both information sources are combined. Here, we review research at the intersection of evolutionary biology, human geography and epidemiology that is working towards an integrated view of spatial incidence, host mobility and viral genetic diversity. We first discuss how empirical studies have combined viral spatial and genetic data, focusing particularly on the contribution of evolutionary analyses to epidemiology and disease control. Second, we explore the interplay between virus evolution and global dispersal in more depth for two pathogens: human influenza A virus and chikungunya virus. We discuss the opportunities for future research arising from new analyses of human transportation and trade networks, as well as the associated challenges in accessing and sharing relevant spatial and genetic data.

  • Testing macro-evolutionary models using incomplete molecular phylogenies.

    3 July 2018

    Phylogenies reconstructed from gene sequences can be used to investigate the tempo and mode of species diversification. Here we develop and use new statistical methods to infer past patterns of speciation and extinction from molecular phylogenies. Specifically, we test the null hypothesis that per-lineage speciation and extinction rates have remained constant through time. Rejection of this hypothesis may provide evidence for evolutionary events such as adaptive radiations or key adaptations. In contrast to previous approaches, our methods are robust to incomplete taxon sampling and are conservative with respect to extinction. Using simulation we investigate, first, the adverse effects of failing to take incomplete sampling into account and, second, the power and reliability of our tests. When applied to published phylogenies our tests suggest that, in some cases, speciation rates have decreased through time.

  • Evolutionary and transmission dynamics of reassortant H5N1 influenza virus in Indonesia.

    3 July 2018

    H5N1 highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) viruses have seriously affected the Asian poultry industry since their recurrence in 2003. The viruses pose a threat of emergence of a global pandemic influenza through point mutation or reassortment leading to a strain that can effectively transmit among humans. In this study, we present phylogenetic evidences for the interlineage reassortment among H5N1 HPAI viruses isolated from humans, cats, and birds in Indonesia, and identify the potential genetic parents of the reassorted genome segments. Parsimony analyses of viral phylogeography suggest that the reassortant viruses may have originated from greater Jakarta and surroundings, and subsequently spread to other regions in the West Java province. In addition, Bayesian methods were used to elucidate the genetic diversity dynamics of the reassortant strain and one of its genetic parents, which revealed a more rapid initial growth of genetic diversity in the reassortant viruses relative to their genetic parent. These results demonstrate that interlineage exchange of genetic information may play a pivotal role in determining viral genetic diversity in a focal population. Moreover, our study also revealed significantly stronger diversifying selection on the M1 and PB2 genes in the lineages preceding and subsequent to the emergence of the reassortant viruses, respectively. We discuss how the corresponding mutations might drive the adaptation and onward transmission of the newly formed reassortant viruses.

  • Contact between bird species of different lifespans can promote the emergence of highly pathogenic avian influenza strains.

    3 July 2018

    Outbreaks of highly pathogenic strains of avian influenza viruses (AIVs) cause considerable economic losses to the poultry industry and also pose a threat to human life. The possibility that one of these strains will evolve to become transmissible between humans, sparking a major influenza pandemic, is a matter of great concern. Most studies so far have focused on assessing these odds from the perspective of the intrinsic mutability of AIV rather than the ecological constraints to invasion faced by the virus population. Here we present an alternative multihost model for the evolution of AIV in which the mode and tempo of mutation play a limited role, with the emergence of strains being determined instead principally by the prevailing profile of population-level immunity. We show that (i) many of the observed differences in influenza virus dynamics among species can be captured by our model by simply varying host lifespan and (ii) increased contact between species of different lifespans can promote the emergence of potentially more virulent strains that were hitherto suppressed in one of the species.

  • Rapid outbreak sequencing of Ebola virus in Sierra Leone identifies transmission chains linked to sporadic cases.

    3 July 2018

    To end the largest known outbreak of Ebola virus disease (EVD) in West Africa and to prevent new transmissions, rapid epidemiological tracing of cases and contacts was required. The ability to quickly identify unknown sources and chains of transmission is key to ending the EVD epidemic and of even greater importance in the context of recent reports of Ebola virus (EBOV) persistence in survivors. Phylogenetic analysis of complete EBOV genomes can provide important information on the source of any new infection. A local deep sequencing facility was established at the Mateneh Ebola Treatment Centre in central Sierra Leone. The facility included all wetlab and computational resources to rapidly process EBOV diagnostic samples into full genome sequences. We produced 554 EBOV genomes from EVD cases across Sierra Leone. These genomes provided a detailed description of EBOV evolution and facilitated phylogenetic tracking of new EVD cases. Importantly, we show that linked genomic and epidemiological data can not only support contact tracing but also identify unconventional transmission chains involving body fluids, including semen. Rapid EBOV genome sequencing, when linked to epidemiological information and a comprehensive database of virus sequences across the outbreak, provided a powerful tool for public health epidemic control efforts.

  • SERAPHIM: studying environmental rasters and phylogenetically informed movements.

    3 July 2018

    SERAPHIM ("Studying Environmental Rasters and PHylogenetically Informed Movements") is a suite of computational methods developed to study phylogenetic reconstructions of spatial movement in an environmental context. SERAPHIM extracts the spatio-temporal information contained in estimated phylogenetic trees and uses this information to calculate summary statistics of spatial spread and to visualize dispersal history. Most importantly, SERAPHIM enables users to study the impact of customized environmental variables on the spread of the study organism. Specifically, given an environmental raster, SERAPHIM computes environmental "weights" for each phylogeny branch, which represent the degree to which the environmental variable impedes (or facilitates) lineage movement. Correlations between movement duration and these environmental weights are then assessed, and the statistical significances of these correlations are evaluated using null distributions generated by a randomization procedure. SERAPHIM can be applied to any phylogeny whose nodes are annotated with spatial and temporal information. At present, such phylogenies are most often found in the field of emerging infectious diseases, but will become increasingly common in other biological disciplines as population genomic data grows.SERAPHIM 1.0 is freely available from http://evolve.zoo.ox.ac.uk/ R package, source code, example files, tutorials and a manual are also available from this website.simon.dellicour@kuleuven.be or oliver.pybus@zoo.ox.ac.ukSupplementary information: Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.