Evolutionary rates and timescale comparison of Chikungunya viruses inferred from the whole genome/E1 gene with special reference to the 2005-07 outbreak in the Indian subcontinent

Infect Genet Evol. 2009 Jan;9(1):16-23. doi: 10.1016/j.meegid.2008.09.004. Epub 2008 Oct 1.


Chikungunya (CHIK) virus reemerged during 2005-07 as an important pathogen causing massive disease outbreaks affecting India and several countries of the Indian Ocean. Knowledge of the evolutionary rates and divergence times of the CHIK virus may help to better understand the disease epidemiology. Considering the limited availability of such information, we estimated the substitution rates and the ancestral times for all the CHIK genotypes and also the time to the most recent common ancestor (tMRCA) of the 2005-07 isolates. Using whole genomes and partial E1 gene datasets, we applied the Bayesian Markov Chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) framework that explicitly accounts for lineage-specific evolutionary rates through the use of 'relaxed' molecular clock models. Under a constant population relaxed clock model, the evolutionary timescale of CHIK viruses in this study was estimated to be in the last 300 years. The progenitor of the 2005-07 viruses was found to have existed around 9 years ago, and to have originated from Central Africa. The presence of a strain in India in 2000 that bears 99% identity with a Ugandan strain of 1982, which correlates with the tMRCA of the Indian and Indian Ocean isolates, confirms our earlier report that the progenitor of the 2005-07 isolates originates from Uganda's neighbourhood. The 'A226V' mutation that existed in the Indian Ocean isolates since late 2005 was found to occur only in the 2007 isolate from India. The study confirms the epidemiological data, specifically with regard to the re-emergence of CHIKV and throws light on the evolutionary dynamics of CHIK viruses.

MeSH terms

  • Alphavirus Infections / epidemiology*
  • Alphavirus Infections / virology
  • Amino Acid Substitution
  • Antigens, Viral / genetics*
  • Bayes Theorem
  • Chikungunya virus / genetics*
  • Disease Outbreaks*
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Genes, Viral
  • Genome, Viral*
  • Humans
  • India / epidemiology
  • Markov Chains
  • Monte Carlo Method
  • Mutation
  • Phylogeny
  • Viral Envelope Proteins / genetics*


  • Antigens, Viral
  • Viral Envelope Proteins