Probability of consolidation constrains novel serotype emergence in dengue fever virus

PLoS One. 2021 Apr 5;16(4):e0248765. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0248765. eCollection 2021.


Since their first sequencing 40 years ago, Dengue virus (DENV) genotypes have shown extreme coherence regarding the serotype class they encode. Considering that DENV is a ribonucleic acid (RNA) virus with a high mutation rate, this behavior is intriguing. Here, we explore the effect of various parameters on likelihood of new serotype emergence. In order to determine the time scales of such an event, we used a Timed Markov Transmission Model to explore the influences of sylvatic versus peri-urban transmission, viral mutation rate, and vertical transmission on the probabilities of novel serotype emergence. We found that around 1 000 years are required for a new serotype to emerge, consistent with phylogenetic analysis of extant dengue serotypes. Furthermore, we show that likelihood of establishing chains of mosquito-human-mosquito infection, known as consolidation, is the primary factor which constrains novel serotype emergence. Our work illustrates the restrictions on and provides a mechanistic explanation for the low probability of novel dengue virus serotype emergence and the low number of observed DENV serotypes.

Grant support

ZRB declares a commercial affiliation with ZYUS Life Sciences Inc. This funder provided support in the form of salaries for ZRB, but did not have any additional role in the study design, data collection, and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. The specific role of this author is articulated in the ‘author contributions’ section.