Cookies on this website
We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Continue' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.
  • High prevalence of hepatitis C virus infection and predominance of genotype 4 in rural Gabon.

    16 October 2018

    Hepatitis C (HCV) molecular epidemiology is documented poorly in central African countries. In response to this, a population-based study of 319 consenting adults resident in a remote village of Gabon was undertaken (mean age: 38 years; age range: 13-85+; sex ratio: 0.74). Screening for anti-HCV antibodies was performed using ELISA and recombinant immunoblot assay. Seropositive samples were assessed further with viral load and genotyping techniques. Sixty-six (20.7%) individuals were HCV seropositive. Viral loads ranged from 600 to 24.9 million IU/ml (median: 372,500). Seroprevalence and viral loads increased significantly with age (P < 10(-5) and P < 0.003, respectively). HCV sequences of the 5'UTR genome region were obtained from 60 (90.9%) samples and NS5B region sequences were obtained from 22 (36.6%) samples. All strains belonged to subtypes of genotype 4: 4e (72.7%), 4c (13.6%), 4p (4.5%), 4r (4.5%) and one unclassified genotype 4 strain. Evolutionary analysis of the subtype 4e sequences indicates a period of raised transmission during the early twentieth century.

  • A phylogenetic method for detecting positive epistasis in gene sequences and its application to RNA virus evolution.

    16 October 2018

    RNA virus genomes are compact, often containing multiple overlapping reading frames and functional secondary structure. Consequently, it is thought that evolutionary interactions between nucleotide sites are commonplace in the genomes of these infectious agents. However, the role of epistasis in natural populations of RNA viruses remains unclear. To investigate the pervasiveness of epistasis in RNA viruses, we used a parsimony-based computational method to identify pairs of co-occurring mutations along phylogenies of 177 RNA virus genes. This analysis revealed widespread evidence for positive epistatic interactions at both synonymous and nonsynonymous nucleotide sites and in both clonal and recombining viruses, with the majority of these interactions spanning very short sequence regions. These findings have important implications for understanding the key aspects of RNA virus evolution, including the dynamics of adaptation. Additionally, many comparative analyses that utilize the phylogenetic relationships among gene sequences assume that mutations represent independent, uncorrelated events. Our results show that this assumption may often be invalid.

  • Phylogenetic analysis of hepatitis C virus isolates indicates a unique pattern of endemic infection in Cameroon.

    16 October 2018

    Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a blood-borne pathogen that poses a significant threat to public health worldwide. The genetic diversity and distribution of HCV genotypes in non-Western countries, particularly subSaharan Africa, is poorly documented. This study reports a phylogenetic analysis of core and NS5B gene sequences of 37 HCV strains sampled in Cameroon. A high level of genetic diversity of both genotypes 1 and 4 was found, indicating a unique pattern of long-term HCV infection that has not been observed elsewhere. These results lead to the hypothesis that these HCV genotypes originated and diversified in west Central Africa before spreading to other regions.

  • Wild waterfowl migration and domestic duck density shape the epidemiology of highly pathogenic H5N8 influenza in the Republic of Korea.

    16 October 2018

    Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) viruses threaten human and animal health yet their emergence is poorly understood, partly because sampling of the HPAI Asian-origin H5N1 lineage immediately after its identification in 1996 was comparatively sparse. The discovery of a novel H5N8 virus in 2013 provides a new opportunity to investigate HPAI emergence in greater detail. Here we investigate the origin and transmission of H5N8 in the Republic of Korea, the second country to report the new strain. We reconstruct viral spread using phylogeographic methods and interpret the results in the context of ecological data on poultry density, overwintering wild bird numbers, and bird migration patterns. Our results indicate that wild waterfowl migration and domestic duck density were important to H5N8 epidemiology. Specifically, we infer that H5N8 entered the Republic of Korea via Jeonbuk province, then spread rapidly among western provinces where densities of overwintering waterfowl and domestic ducks are higher, yet rarely persisted in eastern regions. The common ancestor of H5N8 in the Republic of Korea was estimated to have arrived during the peak of inward migration of overwintering birds. Recent virus isolations likely represent re-introductions via bird migration from an as-yet unsampled reservoir. Based on the limited data from outside the Republic of Korea, our data suggest that H5N8 may have entered Europe at least twice, and Asia at least three times from this reservoir, most likely carried by wild migrating birds.

  • Characterization of full-length hepatitis C virus sequences for subtypes 1e, 1h and 1l, and a novel variant revealed Cameroon as an area in origin for genotype 1.

    16 October 2018

    In this study, we characterized the full-length genome sequences of seven hepatitis C virus (HCV) isolates belonging to genotype 1. These represent the first complete genomes for HCV subtypes 1e, 1h, 1l, plus one novel variant that qualifies for a new but unassigned subtype. The genomes were characterized using 19-22 overlapping fragments. Each was 9400-9439 nt long and contained a single ORF encoding 3019-3020 amino acids. All viruses were isolated in the sera of seven patients residing in, or originating from, Cameroon. Predicted amino acid sequences were inspected and unique patterns of variation were noted. Phylogenetic analysis using full-length sequences provided evidence for nine genotype 1 subtypes, four of which are described for the first time here. Subsequent phylogenetic analysis of 141 partial NS5B sequences further differentiated 13 subtypes (1a-1m) and six additional unclassified lineages within genotype 1. As a result of this study, there are now seven HCV genotype 1 subtypes (1a-1c, 1e, 1g, 1h, 1l) and two unclassified genotype 1 lineages with full-length genomes characterized. Further analysis of 228 genotype 1 sequences from the HCV database with known countries is consistent with an African origin for genotype 1, and with the hypothesis of subsequent dissemination of some subtypes to Asia, Europe and the Americas.

  • Systematic phylogenetic analysis of influenza A virus reveals many novel mosaic genome segments.

    16 October 2018

    Recombination plays an important role in shaping the genetic diversity of a number of DNA and RNA viruses. Although some recent studies have reported bioinformatic evidence of mosaic sequences in a variety of influenza A viruses, it remains controversial as to whether these represent bona fide natural recombination events or laboratory artifacts. Importantly, mosaic genome structures can create significant topological incongruence during phylogenetic analyses, which can mislead additional phylogeny-based molecular evolutionary analyses such as molecular clock dating, the detection of selection pressures and phylogeographic inference. As a result, there is a strong need for systematic screenings for mosaic structures within the influenza virus genome database. We used a combination of sequence-based and phylogeny-based methods to identify 388 mosaic influenza genomic segments, of which 332 are previously unreported and are significantly supported by phylogenetic methods. It is impossible, however, to ascertain whether these represent natural recombinants. To facilitate the future identification of recombinants, reference sets of non-recombinant sequences were selected for use in an automatic screening protocol for detecting mosaic sequences. Tests using real and simulated mosaic sequences indicate that our screening protocol is both sensitive (average >90%) and accurate (average >77%) enough to identify a range of different mosaic patterns. The relatively high prevalence of mosaic influenza virus sequences implies that efficient systematic screens, such as that proposed here, should be performed routinely to detect natural recombinant strains, potential laboratory artifacts, and sequencing contaminants either prior to sequences being deposited in GenBank or before they are used for phylogenetic analyses.

  • Unexpected maintenance of hepatitis C viral diversity following liver transplantation.

    16 October 2018

    Chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection can lead to liver cirrhosis in up to 20% of individuals, often requiring liver transplantation. Although the new liver is known to be rapidly reinfected, the dynamics and source of the reinfecting virus(es) are unclear, resulting in some confusion concerning the relationship between clinical outcome and viral characteristics. To clarify the dynamics of liver reinfection, longitudinal serum viral samples from 10 transplant patients were studied. Part of the E1/E2 region was sequenced, and advanced phylogenetic analysis methods were used in a multiparameter analysis to determine the history and ancestry of reinfecting lineages. Our results demonstrated the complexity of HCV evolutionary dynamics after liver transplantation, in which a large diverse population of viruses is transmitted and maintained for months to years. As many as 30 independent lineages in a single patient were found to reinfect the new liver. Several later posttransplant lineages were more closely related to older pretransplant viruses than to viruses detected immediately after transplantation. Although our data are consistent with a number of interpretations, the persistence of high viral genetic variation over long periods of time requires an active mechanism. We discuss possible scenarios, including frequency-dependent selection or variation in selective pressure among viral subpopulations, i.e., the population structure. The latter hypothesis, if correct, could have relevance to the success of newer direct-acting antiviral therapies.

  • Evolutionary analysis of the dynamics of viral infectious disease.

    16 October 2018

    Many organisms that cause infectious diseases, particularly RNA viruses, mutate so rapidly that their evolutionary and ecological behaviours are inextricably linked. Consequently, aspects of the transmission and epidemiology of these pathogens are imprinted on the genetic diversity of their genomes. Large-scale empirical analyses of the evolutionary dynamics of important pathogens are now feasible owing to the increasing availability of pathogen sequence data and the development of new computational and statistical methods of analysis. In this Review, we outline the questions that can be answered using viral evolutionary analysis across a wide range of biological scales.

  • Host switch leads to emergence of Plasmodium vivax malaria in humans.

    16 October 2018

    The geographical origin of Plasmodium vivax, the most widespread human malaria parasite, is controversial. Although genetic closeness to Asian primate malarias has been confirmed by phylogenetic analyses, genetic similarities between P. vivax and Plasmodium simium, a New World primate malaria, suggest that humans may have acquired P. vivax from New World monkeys or vice versa. Additionally, the near fixation of the Duffy-negative blood type (FY x B(null)/FY x B(null)) in West and Central Africa, consistent with directional selection, and the association of Duffy negativity with complete resistance to vivax malaria suggest a prolonged period of host-parasite coevolution in Africa. Here we use Bayesian and likelihood methods in conjunction with cophylogeny mapping to reconstruct the genetic and coevolutionary history of P. vivax from the complete mitochondrial genome of 176 isolates as well as several closely related Plasmodium species. Taken together, a haplotype network, parasite migration patterns, demographic history, and cophylogeny mapping support an Asian origin via a host switch from macaque monkeys.

  • Colonial history and contemporary transmission shape the genetic diversity of hepatitis C virus genotype 2 in Amsterdam.

    16 October 2018

    Evolutionary analysis of hepatitis C virus (HCV) genome sequences has provided insights into the epidemic history and transmission of this widespread human pathogen. Here we report an exceptionally diverse set of 178 HCV genotype 2 (HCV-2) isolates from 189 patients in Amsterdam, comprising 8 distinct HCV subtypes and 10 previously not recognized, unclassified lineages. By combining study subjects' demographic information with phylogeographic and molecular clock analyses, we demonstrate for the first time that the trans-Atlantic slave trade and colonial history were the driving forces behind the global dissemination of HCV-2. We detect multiple HCV-2 movements from present-day Ghana/Benin to the Caribbean during the peak years of the slave trade (1700 to 1850) and extensive transfer of HCV-2 among the Netherlands and its former colonies Indonesia and Surinam over the last 150 years. The latter coincides with the bidirectional migration of Javanese workers between Indonesia and Surinam and subsequent immigration to the Netherlands. In addition, our study sheds light on contemporary trends in HCV transmission within the Netherlands. We observe multiple lineages of the epidemic subtypes 2a, 2b, and 2c (together 67% of HCV-2 infections in Amsterdam), which cluster according to their suspected routes of transmission, specifically, injecting drug use (IDU) and contaminated blood/blood products. Understanding the epidemiological processes that generated the global pattern of HCV diversity seen today is critical for exposing associations between populations, risk factors, and specific HCV subtypes and might help HCV screening and prevention campaigns to minimize the future burden of HCV-related liver disease.