Link to Pubmed [PMID] – 31535448
Mol. Ecol. 2019 Sep;28(18):4335-4350
Recent years have seen the extensive use of phylogeographic approaches to unveil the dispersal history of virus epidemics. Spatially explicit reconstructions of viral spread represent valuable sources of lineage movement data that can be exploited to investigate the impact of underlying environmental layers on the dispersal of pathogens. Here, we performed phylogeographic inference and applied different post hoc approaches to analyse a new and comprehensive data set of viral genomes to elucidate the dispersal history and dynamics of rabies virus (RABV) in Iran, which have remained largely unknown. We first analysed the association between environmental factors and variations in dispersal velocity among lineages. Second, we present, test and apply a new approach to study the link between environmental conditions and the dispersal direction of lineages. The statistical performance (power of detection, false-positive rate) of this new method was assessed using simulations. We performed phylogeographic analyses of RABV genomes, allowing us to describe the large diversity of RABV in Iran and to confirm the cocirculation of several clades in the country. Overall, we estimate a relatively high lineage dispersal velocity, similar to previous estimates for dog rabies virus spread in northern Africa. Finally, we highlight a tendency for RABV lineages to spread in accessible areas associated with high human population density. Our analytical workflow illustrates how phylogeographic approaches can be used to investigate the impact of environmental factors on several aspects of viral dispersal dynamics.