John H.-O. Pettersson, Jon Bohlin, Myrielle Dupont-Rouzeyrol, Ola B. Brynildsrud, Kristian Alfsnes, Van-Mai Cao-Lormeau, Michael W. Gaunt, Andrew K. Falconar, Xavier de Lamballerie, Vegard Eldholm, Didier Musso & Ernest A. Gould
Based on serological evidence and viral isolation, Zika virus (ZIKV) has circulated for many years relatively benignly in a sylvatic cycle in Africa and an urban cycle in South East Asia (SEA). With the recent availability of limited but novel Indian ZIKV sequences to add to the plethora of SEA sequences, we traced the phylogenetic history and spatio-temporal dispersal pattern of ZIKV in Asia prior to its explosive emergence in the Pacific region and the Americas. These analyses demonstrated that the introduction and dispersal of ZIKV on the Pacific islands were preceded by an extended period of relatively silent transmission in SEA, enabling the virus to expand geographically and evolve adaptively before its unanticipated introduction to immunologically naive populations on the Pacific islands and in the Americas. Our findings reveal new features of the evolution and dispersal of this intriguing virus and may benefit future disease control strategies.