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Contrasting the epidemiological and evolutionary dynamics of influenza spatial transmission.

Abstract

In the past decade, rapid increases in the availability of high-resolution molecular and epidemiological data, combined with developments in statistical and computational methods to simulate and infer migration patterns, have provided key insights into the spatial dynamics of influenza A viruses in humans. In this review, we contrast findings from epidemiological and molecular studies of influenza virus transmission at different spatial scales. We show that findings are broadly consistent in large-scale studies of inter-regional or inter-hemispheric spread in temperate regions, revealing intense epidemics associated with multiple viral introductions, followed by deep troughs driven by seasonal bottlenecks. However, aspects of the global transmission dynamics of influenza viruses are still debated, especially with respect to the existence of tropical source populations experiencing high levels of genetic diversity and the extent of prolonged viral persistence between epidemics. At the scale of a country or community, epidemiological studies have revealed spatially structured diffusion patterns in seasonal and pandemic outbreaks, which were not identified in molecular studies. We discuss the role of sampling issues in generating these conflicting results, and suggest strategies for future research that may help to fully integrate the epidemiological and evolutionary dynamics of influenza virus over space and time.

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