Possible European origin of circulating Varicella-zoster virus strains

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Varicella-zoster virus (VZV) is the causative agent of chickenpox and shingles. The geographic distribution of VZV clades was taken as evidence that VZV migrated out-of-Africa with human populations. We show that extant VZV strains most likely originated in Europe and not in Africa. Europe was also identified as the ancestral location for most internal nodes of the VZV phylogeny, including the ancestor of clade 5 strains. We also show that strains from clades 1, 2, 3, and 5 derived a major proportion of their ancestry from each of four ancestral populations. Conversely, viruses from other clades displayed variable levels of admixture. Some low-level admixture was also observed for clade 5 genomes, but only for non-African viruses. This pattern indicates that the clade 5 VZV strains do not represent recent introductions from Africa due to migratory fluxes. These data have also relevance for the definition and classification of VZV clades.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages9
JournalThe Journal of infectious diseases
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - May 3 2019


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