Comparative analysis of spatial-temporal patterns of human metapneumovirus and respiratory syncytial virus in Africa using genetic data, 2011-2014

Oketch JW, Kamau E, Otieno JR, Mwema A, Lewa C, Isoe E, Nokes DJ, Agoti CN
Virol J. 2021;18

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BACKGROUND: Human metapneumovirus (HMPV) and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) are leading causes of viral severe acute respiratory illnesses in childhood. Both the two viruses belong to the Pneumoviridae family and show overlapping clinical, epidemiological and transmission features. However, it is unknown whether these two viruses have similar geographic spread patterns which may inform designing and evaluating their epidemic control measures. METHODS: We conducted comparative phylogenetic and phylogeographic analyses to explore the spatial-temporal patterns of HMPV and RSV across Africa using 232 HMPV and 842 RSV attachment (G) glycoprotein gene sequences obtained from 5 countries (The Gambia, Zambia, Mali, South Africa, and Kenya) between August 2011 and January 2014. RESULTS: Phylogeographic analyses found frequently similar patterns of spread of RSV and HMPV. Viral sequences commonly clustered by region, i.e., West Africa (Mali, Gambia), East Africa (Kenya) and Southern Africa (Zambia, South Africa), and similar genotype dominance patterns were observed between neighbouring countries. Both HMPV and RSV country epidemics were characterized by co-circulation of multiple genotypes. Sequences from different African sub-regions (East, West and Southern Africa) fell into separate clusters interspersed with sequences from other countries globally. CONCLUSION: The spatial clustering patterns of viral sequences and genotype dominance patterns observed in our analysis suggests strong regional links and predominant local transmission. The geographical clustering further suggests independent introduction of HMPV and RSV variants in Africa from the global pool, and local regional diversification.