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BACKGROUND: Dengue has become a major concern for international public health. Frequent epidemic outbreaks are believed to be driven by a complex interplay of immunological interactions between its four co-circulating serotypes and large fluctuations in mosquito densities. Viral lineage replacement events, caused for example by different levels of cross-protection or differences in viral fitness, have also been linked to a temporary change in dengue epidemiology. A major replacement event was recently described for South-East Asia where the Asian-1 genotype of dengue serotype 2 replaced the resident Asian/American type. Although this was proposed to be due to increased viral fitness in terms of enhanced human-to-mosquito transmission, no major change in dengue epidemiology could be observed. METHODS/RESULTS: Here we investigate the invasion dynamics of a novel, advantageous dengue genotype within a model system and determine the factors influencing the success and rate of fixation as well as their epidemiological consequences. We find that while viral fitness overall correlates with invasion success and competitive exclusion of the resident genotype, the epidemiological landscape plays a more significant role for successful emergence. Novel genotypes can thus face high risks of stochastic extinction despite their fitness advantage if they get introduced during episodes of high dengue prevalence, especially with respect to that particular serotype. CONCLUSION: The rarity of markers for positive selection has often been explained by strong purifying selection whereby the constraints imposed by dengue's two-host cycle are expected to result in a high rate of deleterious mutations. Our results demonstrate that even highly beneficial mutants are under severe threat of extinction, which would suggest that apart from purifying selection, stochastic effects and genetic drift beyond seasonal bottlenecks are equally important in shaping dengue's viral ecology and evolution.

Original publication




Journal article


PLoS Negl Trop Dis

Publication Date





Americas, Asia, Southeastern, Dengue, Dengue Virus, Epidemics, Genotype, Humans