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The spatial dynamics of the West Nile Virus epidemic in North America are largely unknown. Previous studies that investigated the evolutionary history of the virus used sequence data from the structural genes (prM and E); however, these regions may lack phylogenetic information and obscure true evolutionary relationships. This study systematically evaluated the evolutionary patterns in the eleven genes of the WNV genome in order to determine which region(s) were most phylogenetically informative. We found that while the E region lacks resolution and can potentially result in misleading conclusions, the full NS3 or NS5 regions have strong phylogenetic signal. Furthermore, we show that geographic structure of WNV infection within the US is more pronounced than previously reported in studies that used the structural genes. We conclude that future evolutionary studies should focus on NS3 and NS5 in order to maximize the available sequences while retaining maximal interpretative power to infer temporal and geographic trends among WNV strains.

Original publication




Journal article


Mol Phylogenet Evol

Publication Date





195 - 200


Bayes Theorem, Evolution, Molecular, Genome, Viral, Geography, Likelihood Functions, Models, Genetic, North America, Phylogeny, RNA, Viral, Sequence Analysis, DNA, Viral Nonstructural Proteins, West Nile virus