Genomic epidemiology reveals multiple introductions of Zika virus into the United States

Grubaugh ND, Ladner JT, Kraemer MUG, Dudas G, Tan AL, Gangavarapu K, Wiley MR, White S, Thézé J, Magnani DM, Prieto K, Reyes D, Bingham A, Paul LM, Robles-Sikisaka R, Oliveira G, Pronty D, Metsky HC, Baniecki ML, Barnes KG, Chak B, Freije CA, Gladden-Young A, Gnirke A, Luo C, MacInnis B, Matranga CB, Park DJ, Qu J, Schaffner SF, Tomkins-Tinch C, West KL, Winnicki SM, Wohl S, Yozwiak NL, Quick J, Fauver JR, Khan K, Brent SE, Reiner RC, Lichtenberger PN, Ricciardi M, Bailey VK, Watkins DI, Cone MR, Kopp EW, Hogan KN, Cannons AC, Jean R, Garry RF, Loman NJ, Faria NR, Porcelli MC, Vasquez C, Nagle ER, Cummings DAT, Stanek D, Rambaut A, Sanchez-Lockhart M, Sabeti PC, Gillis LD, Michael SF, Bedford T, Pybus OG, Isern S, Palacios G, Andersen KG. 2017. Nature 546: 401-405.


Zika virus (ZIKV) is causing an unprecedented epidemic linked to severe congenital syndromes. In July 2016, mosquito-borne ZIKV transmission was first reported in the continental United States and since then, hundreds of locally-acquired infections have been reported in Florida. To gain insights into the timing, source, and likely route(s) of introduction of ZIKV into the continental United States, we tracked the virus from its first detection in Miami, Florida by direct sequencing of ZIKV genomes from infected patients and Aedes aegypti mosquitoes. We show that at least four distinct ZIKV introductions contributed to the outbreak in Florida and that local transmission likely started in the spring of 2016 - several months before its initial detection. By analyzing surveillance and genetic data, we discovered that ZIKV moved among transmission zones in Miami. Our analyses show that most introductions are phylogenetically linked to the Caribbean, a finding corroborated by the high incidence rates and traffic volumes from the region into the Miami area. By comparing mosquito abundance and travel flows, we describe the areas of southern Florida that are especially vulnerable to ZIKV introductions. Our study provides a deeper understanding of how ZIKV initiates and sustains transmission in new regions.