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PLoS One. 2018 Nov 26;13(11):e0205801. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0205801. eCollection 2018.

Phylogenetic analysis of West Nile Virus in Maricopa County, Arizona: Evidence for dynamic behavior of strains in two major lineages in the American Southwest.

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School of Informatics, Computing, and Cyber Systems, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, Arizona, United Sates of America.
The Pathogen and Microbiome Institute, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, Arizona, United States of America.
Translational Genomics Research Institute, Flagstaff, Arizona, United States of America.
Maricopa County Environmental Services Department Vector Control Division, Phoenix, Arizona, United States of America.
Maricopa County Environmental Services Department Office of Enterprise Technology, Phoenix, Arizona, United States of America.


West Nile Virus (WNV) has been detected annually in Maricopa County, Arizona, since 2003. With this in mind, we sought to determine if contemporary strains are endemic to the county or are annually imported. As part of this effort, we developed a new protocol for tiled amplicon sequencing of WNV to efficiently attain greater than 99% coverage of 14 WNV genomes collected directly from positive mosquito pools distributed throughout Maricopa County between 2014 and 2017. Bayesian phylogenetic analyses revealed that contemporary genomes fall within two major lineages; NA/WN02 and SW/WN03. We found that all of the Arizona strains possessed an amino acid substitution known to be under positive selection, which has arisen independently at least four times in Arizona. The SW/WN03 strains exhibited transient behavior, with at least 10 separate introductions into Arizona when considering both historical and contemporary strains. However, NA/WN02 strains are geographically differentiated and appear to be endemic in Arizona, with two clades that have been circulating for four and seven years. This establishment in Maricopa County provides the first evidence of local overwintering by a WNV strain over the course of several years in Arizona. Within a national context, the placement of eleven contemporary Arizona strains in the NA/WN02 lineage indicates while WNV first entered the northeastern United States in 1999, the most ancestral extant strains of WNV are now circulating in the American southwest.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

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