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Phylogenetic Analysis Estimates Emergence of Rabies Virus

The rabies virus affecting dogs emerged between about 1300 and 1400 AD, a new phylogenetic analysis in Nature Communications has found. An Institut Pasteur-led team developed a new phylogenetic pipeline approach to analyze both full and partial viral genome sequences. As part of their approach, the researchers used more than 14,700 rabies virus sequences collected in 121 countries to develop a concatenated alignment of the five viral gene fragments and a phylogenetic tree. From this, they traced the emergence of the rabies virus back to about 660 years ago and found that historical events, especially colonization, aided in its spread, as, for instance, the French Empire was linked to the spread od canine rabies virus in West Africa, the Spanish Empire with the virus' spread in Central and South America, and the British Empire globally. "This concatenation method and dispersal history reconstruction will not only allow for a more precise understanding of global trends for rabies but also can be applied to other pathogens with a large deposit of partial sequences for phylogeographic investigation and dating purposes," the team writes.