The evolution of dengue-2 viruses in Malindi, Kenya and greater East Africa: Epidemiological and immunological implications

Simon Pollett, Kimita Gathii, Katherine Figueroa, Wiriya Rutvisuttinunt, Abhi Srikanth, Josphat Nyataya, Beth K. Mutai, George Awinda, Richard G. Jarman, Irina Maljkovic Berry*, J. N. Waitumbi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Kenya experiences a substantial burden of dengue, yet there are very few DENV-2 sequence data available from this country and indeed the entire continent of Africa. We therefore undertook whole genome sequencing and evolutionary analysis of fourteen dengue virus (DENV)-2 strains sampled from Malindi sub-County Hospital during the 2017 DENV-2 outbreak in the Kenyan coast. We further performed an extended East African phylogenetic analysis, which leveraged 26 complete African env genes. Maximum likelihood analysis showed that the 2017 outbreak was due to the Cosmopolitan genotype, indicating that this has been the only confirmed human DENV-2 genotype circulating in Africa to date. Phylogeographic analyses indicated transmission of DENV-2 viruses between East Africa and South/South-West Asia. Time-scaled genealogies show that DENV-2 viruses shows spatial structure at the country level in Kenya, with a time-to-most-common-recent ancestor analysis indicating that these DENV-2 strains were circulating for up to 5.38 years in Kenya before detection in the 2017 Malindi outbreak. Selection pressure analyses indicated sampled Kenyan DENV strains uniquely being under positive selection at 6 sites, predominantly across the non-structural genes, and epitope prediction analyses showed that one of these sites corresponds to a putative predicted MHC-I CD8+ DENV-2 Cosmopolitan virus epitope only evident in a sampled Kenyan virus. Taken together, our findings indicate that the 2017 Malindi DENV-2 outbreak arose from a strain which had circulated for several years in Kenya before recent detection, has experienced diversifying selection pressure, and may contain new putative immunogens relevant to vaccine design. These findings prompt further genomic epidemiology studies in this and other Kenyan locations to further elucidate the transmission dynamics of DENV in this region.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104617
JournalInfection, Genetics and Evolution
StatePublished - Jun 2021


  • Africa
  • Dengue
  • Dengue virus
  • Epitopes
  • Kenya
  • Phylogenomics


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