Multiplex PCR method for MinION and Illumina sequencing of Zika and other virus genomes directly from clinical samples

Joshua Quick, Nathan D Grubaugh, Steven T Pullan, Ingra M Claro, Andrew D Smith, Karthik Gangavarapu, Glenn Oliveira, Refugio Robles-Sikisaka, Thomas F Rogers, Nathan A Beutler, Dennis R Burton, Lia Laura Lewis-Ximenez, Jaqueline Goes de Jesus, Marta Giovanetti, Sarah C Hill, Allison Black, Trevor Bedford, Miles W Carroll, Marcio Nunes, Luiz Carlos Alcantara Jr., Ester C Sabino, Sally A Baylis, Nuno R Faria, Matthew Loose, Jared T Simpson, Oliver G Pybus, Kristian G Andersen, Nicholas J Loman

Nature Protocols

May 24, 2017


Genome sequencing has become a powerful tool for studying emerging infectious diseases; however, genome sequencing directly from clinical samples (i.e., without isolation and culture) remains challenging for viruses such as Zika, for which metagenomic sequencing methods may generate insufficient numbers of viral reads. Here we present a protocol for generating coding-sequence-complete genomes, comprising an online primer design tool, a novel multiplex PCR enrichment protocol, optimized library preparation methods for the portable MinION sequencer (Oxford Nanopore Technologies) and the Illumina range of instruments, and a bioinformatics pipeline for generating consensus sequences. The MinION protocol does not require an Internet connection for analysis, making it suitable for field applications with limited connectivity. Our method relies on multiplex PCR for targeted enrichment of viral genomes from samples containing as few as 50 genome copies per reaction. Viral consensus sequences can be achieved in 1–2 d by starting with clinical samples and following a simple laboratory workflow. This method has been successfully used by several groups studying Zika virus evolution and is facilitating an understanding of the spread of the virus in the Americas. The protocol can be used to sequence other viral genomes using the online Primal Scheme primer designer software. It is suitable for sequencing either RNA or DNA viruses in the field during outbreaks or as an inexpensive, convenient method for use in the lab.

Zika virus evolution and spread in the Americas

Hayden C. Metsky, Christian B. Matranga, Shirlee Wohl, Stephen F. Schaffner, Catherine A. Freije, Sarah M. Winnicki, Kendra West, James Qu, Mary Lynn Baniecki, Adrianne Gladden-Young, Aaron E. Lin, Christopher H. Tomkins-Tinch, Simon H. Ye, Daniel J. Park, Cynthia Y. Luo, Kayla G. Barnes, Rickey R. Shah, Bridget Chak, Giselle Barbosa-Lima, Edson Delatorre, Yasmine R. Vieira, Lauren M. Paul, Amanda L. Tan, Carolyn M. Barcellona, Mario C. Porcelli, Chalmers Vasquez, Andrew C. Cannons, Marshall R. Cone, Kelly N. Hogan, Edgar W. Kopp, Joshua J. Anzinger, Kimberly F. Garcia, Leda A. Parham, Rosa M. Gélvez Ramírez, Maria C. Miranda Montoya, Diana P. Rojas, Catherine M. Brown, Scott Hennigan, Brandon Sabina, Sarah Scotland, Karthik Gangavarapu, Nathan D. Grubaugh, Glenn Oliveira, Refugio Robles-Sikisaka, Andrew Rambaut, Lee Gehrke, Sandra Smole, M. Elizabeth Halloran, Luis Villar, Salim Mattar, Ivette Lorenzana, Jose Cerbino-Neto, Clarissa Valim, Wim Degrave, Patricia T. Bozza, Andreas Gnirke, Kristian G. Andersen, Sharon Isern, Scott F. Michael, Fernando A. Bozza, Thiago M. L. Souza, Irene Bosch, Nathan L. Yozwiak, Bronwyn L. MacInnis, Pardis C. Sabeti


May 24, 2017


Although the recent Zika virus (ZIKV) epidemic in the Americas and its link to birth defects have attracted a great deal of attention much remains unknown about ZIKV disease epidemiology and ZIKV evolution, in part owing to a lack of genomic data. Here we address this gap in knowledge by using multiple sequencing approaches to generate 110 ZIKV genomes from clinical and mosquito samples from 10 countries and territories, greatly expanding the observed viral genetic diversity from this outbreak. We analysed the timing and patterns of introductions into distinct geographic regions; our phylogenetic evidence suggests rapid expansion of the outbreak in Brazil and multiple introductions of outbreak strains into Puerto Rico, Honduras, Colombia, other Caribbean islands, and the continental United States. We find that ZIKV circulated undetected in multiple regions for many months before the first locally transmitted cases were confirmed, highlighting the importance of surveillance of viral infections. We identify mutations with possible functional implications for ZIKV biology and pathogenesis, as well as those that might be relevant to the effectiveness of diagnostic tests.

Transmission Bottleneck Size Estimation from Pathogen Deep-Sequencing Data, with an Application to Human Influenza A Virus

Ashley Sobel Leonard, Daniel Weissman, Benjamin Greenbaum, Elodie Ghedin, Katia Koelle

Journal of Virology

May 3, 2017


The bottleneck governing infectious disease transmission describes the size of the pathogen population transferred from donor to recipient host. Accurate quantification of the bottleneck size is particularly important for rapidly evolving pathogens such as influenza virus, as narrow bottlenecks reduce the amount of transferred viral genetic diversity and, thus, may slow the rate of viral adaptation. Previous studies have estimated bottleneck sizes governing viral transmission using statistical analyses of variants identified in pathogen sequencing data. These analyses, however, did not account for variant calling thresholds and stochastic viral replication dynamics within recipient hosts. Because these factors can skew bottleneck size estimates, we introduce a new method for inferring bottleneck sizes that accounts for these factors. Through the use of a simulated dataset, we first show that our method, based on beta-binomial sampling, accurately recovers transmission bottleneck sizes, whereas other methods fail to do so. We then apply our method to a dataset of influenza A infections for which viral deep-sequencing data from transmission pairs are available. We find that the IAV transmission bottleneck size estimates in this study are highly variable across transmission pairs, while the mean bottleneck size of 196 virions is consistent with the previous estimate for this dataset. Further, regression analysis shows a positive association between estimated bottleneck size and donor infection severity, as measured by temperature. These results support findings from experimental transmission studies showing that bottleneck sizes across transmission events can be variable and in part influenced by epidemiological factors.

Spread of Zika virus in the Americas

Qian Zhang, Kaiyuan Sun, Matteo Chinazzi, Ana Pastore y Piontti, Natalie E. Dean, Diana Patricia Rojas, Stefano Merler, Dina Mistry, Piero Poletti, Luca Rossi, Margaret Bray, M. Elizabeth Halloran, Ira M. Longini, Jr., Alessandro Vespignani

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

April 25, 2017


We use a data-driven global stochastic epidemic model to analyze the spread of the Zika virus (ZIKV) in the Americas. The model has high spatial and temporal resolution and integrates real-world demographic, human mobility, socioeconomic, temperature, and vector density data. We estimate that the first introduction of ZIKV to Brazil likely occurred between August 2013 and April 2014 (90% credible interval). We provide simulated epidemic profiles of incident ZIKV infections for several countries in the Americas through February 2017. The ZIKV epidemic is characterized by slow growth and high spatial and seasonal heterogeneity, attributable to the dynamics of the mosquito vector and to the characteristics and mobility of the human populations. We project the expected timing and number of pregnancies infected with ZIKV during the first trimester and provide estimates of microcephaly cases assuming different levels of risk as reported in empirical retrospective studies. Our approach represents a modeling effort aimed at understanding the potential magnitude and timing of the ZIKV epidemic and it can be potentially used as a template for the analysis of future mosquito-borne epidemics.

Controlling cholera in the Ouest Department of Haiti using oral vaccines

Alexander Kirpich, Thomas A. Weppelmann, Yang Yang, John Glenn Morris Jr., Ira M. Longini Jr.

PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases

April 14, 2017


Following the 2010 cholera outbreak in Haiti, a plan was initiated to provide massive improvements to the sanitation and drinking water infrastructure in order to eliminate cholera from the island of Hispaniola by 2023. Six years and a half billion dollars later, there is little evidence that any substantial improvements have been implemented; with increasing evidence that cholera has become endemic. Thus, it is time to explore strategies to control cholera in Haiti using oral cholera vaccines (OCVs). The potential effects of mass administration of OCVs on cholera transmission were assessed using dynamic compartment models fit to cholera incidence data from the Ouest Department of Haiti. The results indicated that interventions using an OCV that was 60% effective could have eliminated cholera transmission by August 2012 if started five weeks after the initial outbreak. A range of analyses on the ability of OCV interventions started January 1, 2017 to eliminate cholera transmission by 2023 were performed by considering different combinations of vaccine efficacies, vaccine administration rates, and durations of protective immunity. With an average of 50 weeks for the waiting time to vaccination and an average duration of three years for the vaccine-induced immunity, all campaigns that used an OCV with a vaccine efficacy of at least 60% successfully eliminated cholera transmission by 2023. The results of this study suggest that even with a relatively wide range of vaccine efficacies, administration rates, and durations of protective immunity, future epidemics could be controlled at a relatively low cost using mass administration of OCVs in Haiti.

Maternal pertussis immunisation: clinical gains and epidemiological legacy

AI Bento, AA King, P Rohani


April 13, 2017


The increase in whooping cough (pertussis) incidence in many countries with high routine vaccination coverage is alarming, with incidence in the US reaching almost 50,000 reported cases per year, reflecting incidence levels not seen since the 1950s. While the potential explanations for this resurgence remain debated, we face an urgent need to protect newborns, especially during the time window between birth and the first routine vaccination dose. Maternal immunisation has been proposed as an effective strategy for protecting neonates, who are at higher risk of severe pertussis disease and mortality. However, if maternally derived antibodies adversely affect the immunogenicity of the routine schedule, through blunting effects, we may observe a gradual degradation of herd immunity. ‘Wasted’ vaccines would result in an accumulation of susceptible children in the population, specifically leading to an overall increase in incidence in older age groups. In this Perspective, we discuss potential long-term epidemiological effects of maternal immunisation, as determined by possible immune interference outcomes.

Infectious Disease Dynamics Inferred from Genetic Data via Sequential Monte Carlo

R. A. Smith, E. L. Ionides, A. A. King

Molecular Biology and Evolution

April 8, 2017


Genetic sequences from pathogens can provide information about infectious disease dynamics that may supplement or replace information from other epidemiological observations. Most currently available methods first estimate phylogenetic trees from sequence data, then estimate a transmission model conditional on these phylogenies. Outside limited classes of models, existing methods are unable to enforce logical consistency between the model of transmission and that underlying the phylogenetic reconstruction. Such conflicts in assumptions can lead to bias in the resulting inferences. Here, we develop a general, statistically efficient, plug-and-play method to jointly estimate both disease transmission and phylogeny using genetic data and, if desired, other epidemiological observations. This method explicitly connects the model of transmission and the model of phylogeny so as to avoid the aforementioned inconsistency. We demonstrate the feasibility of our approach through simulation and apply it to estimate stage-specific infectiousness in a subepidemic of HIV in Detroit, Michigan. In a supplement, we prove that our approach is a valid sequential Monte Carlo algorithm. While we focus on how these methods may be applied to population-level models of infectious disease, their scope is more general. These methods may be applied in other biological systems where one seeks to infer population dynamics from genetic sequences, and they may also find application for evolutionary models with phenotypic rather than genotypic data.

Deep mutational scanning identifies sites in influenza nucleoprotein that affect viral inhibition by MxA

Orr Ashenberg, Jai Padmakumar, Michael B. Doud, Jesse D. Bloom 

PLOS Pathogens

March 27, 2017


The innate-immune restriction factor MxA inhibits influenza replication by targeting the viral nucleoprotein (NP). Human influenza virus is more resistant than avian influenza virus to inhibition by human MxA, and prior work has compared human and avian viral strains to identify amino-acid differences in NP that affect sensitivity to MxA. However, this strategy is limited to identifying sites in NP where mutations that affect MxA sensitivity have fixed during the small number of documented zoonotic transmissions of influenza to humans. Here we use an unbiased deep mutational scanning approach to quantify how all single amino-acid mutations to NP affect MxA sensitivity in the context of replication-competent virus. We both identify new sites in NP where mutations affect MxA resistance and re-identify mutations known to have increased MxA resistance during historical adaptations of influenza to humans. Most of the sites where mutations have the greatest effect are almost completely conserved across all influenza A viruses, and the amino acids at these sites confer relatively high resistance to MxA. These sites cluster in regions of NP that appear to be important for its recognition by MxA. Overall, our work systematically identifies the sites in influenza nucleoprotein where mutations affect sensitivity to MxA. We also demonstrate a powerful new strategy for identifying regions of viral proteins that affect inhibition by host factors.

Complete mapping of viral escape from neutralizing antibodies

Michael B. Doud, Scott E. Hensley, Jesse D. Bloom

PLOS Pathogens

March 13, 2017


Identifying viral mutations that confer escape from antibodies is crucial for understanding the interplay between immunity and viral evolution. We describe a high-throughput approach to quantify the selection that monoclonal antibodies exert on all single amino-acid mutations to a viral protein. This approach, mutational antigenic profiling, involves creating all replication-competent protein variants of a virus, selecting with antibody, and using deep sequencing to identify enriched mutations. We use mutational antigenic profiling to comprehensively identify mutations that enable influenza virus to escape four monoclonal antibodies targeting hemagglutinin, and validate key findings with neutralization assays. We find remarkable mutation-level idiosyncrasy in antibody escape: for instance, at a single residue targeted by two antibodies, some mutations escape both antibodies while other mutations escape only one or the other. Because mutational antigenic profiling rapidly maps all mutations selected by an antibody, it is useful for elucidating immune specificities and interpreting the antigenic consequences of viral genetic variation.

Perspectives on model forecasts of the 2014–2015 Ebola epidemic in West Africa: lessons and the way forward

Gerardo Chowell, Cécile Viboud,  Lone Simonsen, Stefano Merler, and Alessandro Vespignani

BMC Medicine

March 1, 2017


The unprecedented impact and modeling efforts associated with the 2014–2015 Ebola epidemic in West Africa provides a unique opportunity to document the performances and caveats of forecasting approaches used in near-real time for generating evidence and to guide policy. A number of international academic groups have developed and parameterized mathematical models of disease spread to forecast the trajectory of the outbreak. These modeling efforts often relied on limited epidemiological data to derive key transmission and severity parameters, which are needed to calibrate mechanistic models. Here, we provide a perspective on some of the challenges and lessons drawn from these efforts, focusing on (1) data availability and accuracy of early forecasts; (2) the ability of different models to capture the profile of early growth dynamics in local outbreaks and the importance of reactive behavior changes and case clustering; (3) challenges in forecasting the long-term epidemic impact very early in the outbreak; and (4) ways to move forward. We conclude that rapid availability of aggregated population-level data and detailed information on a subset of transmission chains is crucial to characterize transmission patterns, while ensemble-forecasting approaches could limit the uncertainty of any individual model. We believe that coordinated forecasting efforts, combined with rapid dissemination of disease predictions and underlying epidemiological data in shared online platforms, will be critical in optimizing the response to current and future infectious disease emergencies.

Dynamics affecting the risk of silent circulation when oral polio vaccination is stopped

J.S. Koopman, C.J. Henry, J.H. Park, M.C. Eisenberg, E.L. Ionides, J.N. Eisenberg


March 1, 2017


Waning immunity could allow transmission of polioviruses without causing poliomyelitis by promoting silent circulation (SC). Undetected SC when oral polio vaccine (OPV) use is stopped could cause difficult to control epidemics. Little is known about waning. To develop theory about what generates SC, we modeled a range of waning patterns. We varied both OPV and wild polio virus (WPV) transmissibility, the time from beginning vaccination to reaching low polio levels, and the infection to paralysis ratio (IPR). There was longer SC when waning continued over time rather than stopping after a few years, when WPV transmissibility was higher or OPV transmissibility was lower, and when the IPR was higher. These interacted in a way that makes recent emergence of prolonged SC a possibility. As the time to reach low infection levels increased, vaccine rates needed to eliminate polio increased and a threshold was passed where prolonged low-level SC emerged. These phenomena were caused by increased contributions to the force of infection from reinfections. The resulting SC occurs at low levels that would be difficult to detect using environmental surveillance. For all waning patterns, modest levels of vaccination of adults shortened SC. Previous modeling studies may have missed these phenomena because (1) they used models with no or very short duration waning and (2) they fit models to paralytic polio case counts. Our analyses show that polio case counts cannot predict SC because nearly identical polio case count patterns can be generated by a range of waning patterns that generate different patterns of SC. We conclude that the possibility of prolonged SC is real but unquantified, that vaccinating modest fractions of adults could reduce SC risk, and that joint analysis of acute flaccid paralysis and environmental surveillance data can help assess SC risks and ensure low risks before stopping OPV.

Persistent Arthralgia Associated with Chikungunya Virus Outbreak, US Virgin Islands, December 2014–February 2016

Leora R. Feldstein, Ali Rowhani-Rahbar, J. Erin Staples, Marcia R. Weaver, M. Elizabeth Halloran, and Esther M. Ellis

Emerging Infectious Diseases

April, 2017


After the 2014–2015 outbreak of chikungunya virus in the US Virgin Islands, we compared the prevalence of persistent arthralgia among case-patients and controls. Prevalence was higher in case-patients than controls 6 and 12 months after disease onset. Continued vaccine research to prevent acute illness and long-term sequelae is essential.

Locally Adaptive Smoothing with Markov Random Fields and Shrinkage Priors

James R. Faulkner and Vladimir N. Minin

Bayesian Analysis

February 24, 2017


We present a locally adaptive nonparametric curve fitting method that operates within a fully Bayesian framework. This method uses shrinkage priors to induce sparsity in order-kk differences in the latent trend function, providing a combination of local adaptation and global control. Using a scale mixture of normals representation of shrinkage priors, we make explicit connections between our method and kkth order Gaussian Markov random field smoothing. We call the resulting processes shrinkage prior Markov random fields (SPMRFs). We use Hamiltonian Monte Carlo to approximate the posterior distribution of model parameters because this method provides superior performance in the presence of the high dimensionality and strong parameter correlations exhibited by our models. We compare the performance of three prior formulations using simulated data and find the horseshoe prior provides the best compromise between bias and precision. We apply SPMRF models to two benchmark data examples frequently used to test nonparametric methods. We find that this method is flexible enough to accommodate a variety of data generating models and offers the adaptive properties and computational tractability to make it a useful addition to the Bayesian nonparametric toolbox.

Genome sequencing reveals Zika virus diversity and spread in the Americas

Metsky, H.C. , Matranga, C.B., Wohl, S., Schaffner, S.F., Freije, C.A., Winnicki, S.M., West, K., Qu, J., Baniecki, M.L., Gladden-Young, A., Lin, A.E., Tomkins-Tinch, C.H., Park, D.J., Luo, C.Y., Barnes, K.G., Chak, B., Barbosa-Lima, G., Delatorre, E., Vieira, Y.R., Paul, L.M., Tan, A.L., Porcelli, M.C., Vasquez, C., Cannons, A.C., Cone, M.R., Hogan, K.N., Kopp, E.W. IV, Anzinger, J.J., Garcia, K.F., Parham, L.A., Gélvez Ramírez, R.M., Miranda Montoya, M.C., Rojas, D.P., Brown, C.M., Hennigan, S., Sabina, B., Scotland, S., Gangavarapu, K., Grubaugh, N.D., Oliveira, G., Robles-Sikisaka, R., Rambaut, A., Gehrke, L., Smole, S., Halloran, M.E., Villar Centeno, L.A., Mattar, S., Lorenzana, I., Cerbino-Neto, J., Degrave, W., Bozza, P.T., Gnirke, A., Andersen, K.G., Isern, S., Michael, S., Bozza, F., Souza, T.M.L., Bosch, I., Yozwiak, N.L., MacInnis, B.L., Sabeti, P.C.


February 18, 2017

Despite great attention given to the recent Zika virus (ZIKV) epidemic in the Americas, much remains unknown about its epidemiology and evolution, in part due to a lack of genomic data. We applied multiple sequencing approaches to generate 100 ZIKV genomes from clinical and mosquito samples from 10 countries and territories, greatly expanding the observed viral genetic diversity from this outbreak. We analyzed the timing and patterns of introductions into distinct geographic regions, confirming phylogenetic evidence for the origin and rapid expansion of the outbreak in Brazil1 , and for multiple introductions from Brazil into Honduras, Colombia, Puerto Rico, other Caribbean islands, and the continental US. We find that ZIKV circulated undetected in many regions of the Americas for up to a year before the first locally transmitted cases were confirmed, highlighting the challenge of effective surveillance for this virus. We further characterize genetic variation across the outbreak to identify mutations with possible functional implications for ZIKV biology and pathogenesis.

The effective rate of influenza reassortment is limited during human infection

Ashley Sobel Leonard, Micah T. McClain, Gavin J. D. Smith, David E. Wentworth, Rebecca A. Halpin, Xudong Lin, Amy Ransier, Timothy B. Stockwell, Suman R. Das, Anthony S. Gilbert, Rob Lambkin-Williams, Geoffrey S. Ginsburg, Christopher W. Woods, Katia Koelle, Christopher J. R. Illingworth

Plos Pathogens

February 7, 2017


We characterise the evolutionary dynamics of influenza infection described by viral sequence data collected from two challenge studies conducted in human hosts. Viral genome sequence data were collected at regular intervals from infected hosts. Changes in the sequence data observed across time show that the within-host evolution of the virus was driven by the reversion of variants acquired during previous passaging of the virus. Treatment of some patients with oseltamivir on the first day of infection did not lead to the emergence of drug resistance variants in patients. Using an evolutionary model, we inferred the effective rate of reassortment between viral segments, measuring the extent to which randomly chosen viruses within the host exchange genetic material. We find strong evidence that the rate of effective reassortment is low, such that genetic associations between polymorphic loci in different segments are preserved during the course of an infection in a manner not compatible with epistasis. Combining our evidence with that of previous studies we suggest that spatial heterogeneity in the viral population may reduce the extent to which reassortment is observed. Our results do not contradict previous findings of high rates of viral reassortment in vitro and in small animal studies, but indicate that in human hosts the effective rate of reassortment may be substantially more limited.

Transmission Bottleneck Size Estimation from Pathogen Deep-Sequencing Data, with an Application to Human Influenza A Virus

Ashley Sobel Leonard, Daniel Weissman, Benjamin Greenbaum, Elodie Ghedin, Katia Koelle


January 19, 2017


The bottleneck governing infectious disease transmission describes the size of the pathogen population transferred from a donor to a recipient host. Accurate quantification of the bottleneck size is of particular importance for rapidly evolving pathogens such as influenza virus, as narrow bottlenecks would limit the extent of transferred viral genetic diversity and, thus, have the potential to slow the rate of viral adaptation. Previous studies have estimated the transmission bottleneck size governing viral transmission through statistical analyses of variants identified in pathogen sequencing data. The methods used by these studies, however, did not account for variant calling thresholds and stochastic dynamics of the viral population within recipient hosts. Because these factors can skew bottleneck size estimates, we here introduce a new method for inferring transmission bottleneck sizes that explicitly takes these factors into account. We compare our method, based on beta-binomial sampling, with existing methods in the literature for their ability to recover the transmission bottleneck size of a simulated dataset. This comparison demonstrates that the beta-binomial sampling method is best able to accurately infer the simulated bottleneck size. We then apply our method to a recently published dataset of influenza A H1N1p and H3N2 infections, for which viral deep sequencing data from inferred donor-recipient transmission pairs are available. Our results indicate that transmission bottleneck sizes across transmission pairs are variable, yet that there is no significant difference in the overall bottleneck sizes inferred for H1N1p and H3N2. The mean bottleneck size for influenza virus in this study, considering all transmission pairs, was Nb = 196 (95% confidence interval 66-392) virions. While this estimate is consistent with previous bottleneck size estimates for this dataset, it is considerably higher than the bottleneck sizes estimated for influenza from other datasets.

Efficacy and effectiveness of an rVSV-vectored vaccine in preventing Ebola virus disease: final results from the Guinea ring vaccination, open-label, cluster-randomised trial (Ebola Ça Suffit!)

Ana Maria Henao-Restrepo, Anton Camacho, Ira M Longini, Conall H Watson, W John Edmunds, Matthias Egger, Miles W Carroll, Natalie E Dean, Ibrahima Diatta, Moussa Doumbia, Bertrand Draguez, Sophie Duraff our, Godwin Enwere, Rebecca Grais, Stephan Gunther, Pierre-Stéphane Gsell, Stefanie Hossmann, Sara Viksmoen Watle, Mandy Kader Kondé, Sakoba Kéïta, Souleymane Kone, Eewa Kuisma, Myron M Levine, Sema Mandal, Thomas Mauget, Gunnstein Norheim, Ximena Riveros, Aboubacar Soumah, Sven Trelle, Andrea S Vicari, John-Arne Røttingen, Marie-Paule Kieny


December 23, 2016



rVSV-ZEBOV is a recombinant, replication competent vesicular stomatitis virus-based candidate vaccine expressing a surface glycoprotein of Zaire Ebolavirus. We tested the effect of rVSV-ZEBOV in preventing Ebola virus disease in contacts and contacts of contacts of recently confirmed cases in Guinea, west Africa.

The Long-Term Safety, Public Health Impact, and Cost-Effectiveness of Routine Vaccination with a Recombinant, Live-Attenuated Dengue Vaccine (Dengvaxia): A Model Comparison Study

Stefan Flasche, Mark Jit, Isabel Rodrıguez-Barraquer, Laurent Coudeville, Mario Recker, Katia Koelle, George Milne, Thomas J. Hladish, T. Alex Perkins, Derek A. T. Cummings, Ilaria Dorigatti, Daniel J. Laydon, Guido España, Joel Kelso, Ira Longini, Jose Lourenco, Carl A. B. Pearson, Robert C. Reiner, Luis Mier-y-Teran-Romero, Kirsten Vannice, Neil Ferguson

PLOS Medicine

November 29, 2016



Large Phase III trials across Asia and Latin America have recently demonstrated the efficacy of a recombinant, live-attenuated dengue vaccine (Dengvaxia) over the first 25 mo following vaccination. Subsequent data collected in the longer-term follow-up phase, however, have raised concerns about a potential increase in hospitalization risk of subsequent dengue infections, in particular among young, dengue-naïve vaccinees. We here report predictions from eight independent modelling groups on the long-term safety, public health impact, and cost-effectiveness of routine vaccination with Dengvaxia in a range of transmission settings, as characterised by seroprevalence levels among 9-y-olds (SP9). These predictions were conducted for the World Health Organization to inform their recommendations on optimal use of this vaccine.

Methods and Findings

The models adopted, with small variations, a parsimonious vaccine mode of action that was able to reproduce quantitative features of the observed trial data. The adopted mode of action assumed that vaccination, similarly to natural infection, induces transient, heterologous protection and, further, establishes a long-lasting immunogenic memory, which determines disease severity of subsequent infections. The default vaccination policy considered was routine vaccination of 9-y-old children in a three-dose schedule at 80% coverage. The outcomes examined were the impact of vaccination on infections, symptomatic dengue, hospitalised dengue, deaths, and cost-effectiveness over a 30-y postvaccination period. Case definitions were chosen in accordance with the Phase III trials.

All models predicted that in settings with moderate to high dengue endemicity (SP9 ≥ 50%), the default vaccination policy would reduce the burden of dengue disease for the population by 6%–25% (all simulations: –3%–34%) and in high-transmission settings (SP9 ≥ 70%) by 13%–25% (all simulations: 10%– 34%). These endemicity levels are representative of the participating sites in both Phase III trials. In contrast, in settings with low transmission intensity (SP9 ≤ 30%), the models predicted that vaccination could lead to a substantial increase in hospitalisation because of dengue. Modelling reduced vaccine coverage or the addition of catch-up campaigns showed that the impact of vaccination scaled approximately linearly with the number of people vaccinated. In assessing the optimal age of vaccination, we found that targeting older children could increase the net benefit of vaccination in settings with moderate transmission intensity (SP9 = 50%). Overall, vaccination was predicted to be potentially cost-effective in most endemic settings if priced competitively.

The results are based on the assumption that the vaccine acts similarly to natural infection. This assumption is consistent with the available trial results but cannot be directly validated in the absence of additional data. Furthermore, uncertainties remain regarding the level of protection provided against disease versus infection and the rate at which vaccine-induced protection declines.


Dengvaxia has the potential to reduce the burden of dengue disease in areas of moderate to high dengue endemicity. However, the potential risks of vaccination in areas with limited exposure to dengue as well as the local costs and benefits of routine vaccination are important considerations for the inclusion of Dengvaxia into existing immunisation programmes. These results were important inputs into WHO global policy for use of this licensed dengue vaccine.

Climate-driven endemic cholera is modulated by human mobility in a megacity

Javier Perez-Saez, Aaron A. King, Andrea Rinaldoa, Mohammad Yunus, Abu S.G. Faruquec, 
Mercedes Pascual

Advances in Water Resources

November 27, 2016


Although a differential sensitivity of cholera dynamics to climate variability has been reported in the spatially heterogeneous megacity of Dhaka, Bangladesh, the specific patterns of spread of the resulting risk within the city remain unclear. We build on an established probabilistic spatial model to investigate the importance and role of human mobility in modulating spatial cholera transmission. Mobility fluxes were inferred using a straightforward and generalizable methodology that relies on mapping population density based on a high resolution urban footprint product, and a parameter-free human mobility model. In accordance with previous findings, we highlight the higher sensitivity to the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) in the highly populated urban center than in the more rural periphery. More significantly, our results show that cholera risk is largely transmitted from the climate-sensitive core to the periphery of the city, with implications for the planning of control efforts. In addition, including human mobility improves the outbreak prediction performance of the model with an 11 month lead. The interplay between climatic and human mobility factors in cholera transmission is discussed from the perspective of the rapid growth of megacities across the developing world.

phylodyn: an R package for phylodynamic simulation and inference

Michael D. Karcher, Julia A. Palacios, Shiwei Lan, Vladimir N. Minin

Molecular Ecology Resources

November 21, 2016


We introduce phylodyn, an r package for phylodynamic analysis based on gene genealogies. The package's main functionality is Bayesian nonparametric estimation of effective population size fluctuations over time. Our implementation includes several Markov chain Monte Carlo-based methods and an integrated nested Laplace approximation-based approach for phylodynamic inference that have been developed in recent years. Genealogical data describe the timed ancestral relationships of individuals sampled from a population of interest. Here, individuals are assumed to be sampled at the same point in time (isochronous sampling) or at different points in time (heterochronous sampling); in addition, sampling events can be modelled with preferential sampling, which means that the intensity of sampling events is allowed to depend on the effective population size trajectory. We assume the coalescent and the sequentially Markov coalescent processes as generative models of genealogies. We include several coalescent simulation functions that are useful for testing our phylodynamics methods via simulation studies. We compare the performance and outputs of various methods implemented in phylodyn and outline their strengths and weaknesses. r package phylodyn is available at