Evidence for multiple sylvatic transmission cycles during the 2016-2017 yellow fever virus outbreak, Brazil

Tags: | October 14th, 2018

Authors: Moreira-Soto A, Torres MC, Lima de Mendonça MC, et al.

Published in: Clin Microbiol Infect. 2018;24(9):1019.e1-1019.e4

Objectives Since December 2016, Brazil has experienced an unusually large outbreak of yellow fever (YF). Whether urban transmission may contribute to the extent of the outbreak is unclear. The objective of this study was to characterize YF virus (YFV) genomes and to identify spatial patterns to determine the distribution and origin of YF cases in Minas Gerais, Espírito Santo and Rio de Janeiro, the most affected Brazilian states during the current YFV outbreak.

Methods We characterized near-complete YFV genomes from 14 human cases and two nonhuman primates (NHP), sampled from February to April 2017, retrieved epidemiologic data of cases and used a geographic information system to investigate the geospatial spread of YFV.

Results All YFV strains were closely related. On the basis of signature mutations, we identified two cocirculating YFV clusters. One was restricted to the hinterland of Espírito Santo state, and another formed a coastal cluster encompassing several hundred kilometers. Both clusters comprised strains from humans living in rural areas and NHP. Another NHP lineage clustered in a basal relationship. No signs of adaptation of YFV strains to human hosts were detected.

Conclusions Our data suggest sylvatic transmission during the current outbreak. Additionally, cocirculation of two distinct YFV clades occurring in humans and NHP suggests the existence of multiple sylvatic transmission cycles. Increased detection of YFV might be facilitated by raised awareness for arbovirus-mediated disease after Zika and chikungunya virus outbreaks. Further surveillance is required, as reemergence of YFV from NHPs might continue and facilitate the appearance of urban transmission cycles.


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