University of Arizona

What the DNA of the Zika virus tells scientists about its rapid spread

What the DNA of the Zika virus tells scientists about its rapid spread

A family tree can reveal a lot, especially if it belongs to a microscopic troublemaker with a knack for genetic shape-shifting.

DNA sleuthing can outline the route an emerging pathogen might take once it makes landfall in the Americas and encounters a wholly unprotected population. It’s a modern take on old-fashioned public health surveillance strategies that focused on the exhaustive collection and analysis of samples from the field. Now they’ve been bolstered by rapid genome sequencing — and the result can be a picture of an epidemic rendered in exquisite detail, and in near-real time.

For those trying to anticipate the shape of the next pandemic of human disease, the...

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