Chikungunya virus ECSA lineage reintroduction in the northeasternmost region of Brazil

The Northeast region of Brazil registered the second highest incidence proportion of chikungunya fever in 2019. In that year an outbreak consisting of patients presented with febrile disease associated with joint pain were reported by the public primary health care service in the city of Natal, Rio Grande do Norte state, in March 2019.

At first, the aetiological agent of the disease was undetermined. Since much is still unknown about chikungunya virus (CHIKV) genomic diversity and evolutionary history in this northeasternmost state, we used a combination of portable whole genome sequencing, molecular clock, and epidemiological analyses that revealed the re-introduction of the CHIKV East-Central-South-African (ECSA) lineage into Rio Grande do Norte.

We estimated CHIKV ECSA lineage was first introduced into Rio Grande do Norte in early June 2014, while the 2019 outbreak clade diverged around April 2018 during a period of increased chikungunya incidence in the Southeast region, which might have acted as a source of virus dispersion towards the Northeast region.

Together, these results confirm the ECSA lineage continues to spread across the country through interregional importation events likely mediated by human mobility.

Authors: Joilson Xavier, Vagner Fonseca, Joao Felipe Bezerra, Manoella do Monte Alves, Maria Angélica Mares-Guia, Ingra Morales Claro, Ronaldo de Jesus, Talita Adelino, Emerson Araújo, Karina Ribeiro Leite Jardim Cavalcante, Stephane Tosta, Themis Rocha de Souza, Flavia Emanuelle Moreira da Cruz, Allison de Araújo Fabri, Elaine Cristina de Oliveira, Noely Fabiana Oliveira de Moura, Rodrigo Fabiano do Carmo Said, Carlos Frederico Campelo de Albuquerque, Vasco Azevedo, Tulio de Oliveira, Ana Maria Bispo de Filippis, Rivaldo Venâncio da Cunha, Kleber Giovanni Luz, Marta Giovanetti, Luiz Carlos Junior Alcantara