The unexpected emergence of Zika virus (ZIKV) in the Pacific Islands and Latin America and its association with congenital Zika virus syndrome (CZVS) (which includes microcephaly) and Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) have stimulated wide-ranging research. High densities of susceptible Aedes spp., immunologically naive human populations, global population growth with increased urbanization, and escalation of global transportation of humans and commercial goods carrying vectors and ZIKV undoubtedly enhanced the emergence of ZIKV. However, flavivirus mutations accumulate with time, increasing the likelihood that genetic viral differences are determinants of change in viral phenotype. Based on comparative ZIKV complete genome phylogenetic analyses and temporal estimates, we identify amino acid substitutions that may be associated with increased viral epidemicity, CZVS, and GBS. Reverse genetics, vector competence, and seroepidemiological studies will test our hypothesis that these amino acid substitutions are determinants of epidemic and neurotropic ZIKV emergence.
Pettersson, J. H. O., Eldholm, V., Seligman, S. J., Lundkvist, Å., Falconar, A. K., Gaunt, M. W., … De Lamballerie, X. (2016). How did zika virus emerge in the Pacific Islands and Latin America? MBio, 7(5). https://doi.org/10.1128/mBio.01239-16