On the importance of negative controls in viral landscape phylogeography

Simon Dellicour, Bram Vrancken, Nídia S. Trovão, Denis Fargette, Philippe Lemey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Phylogeographic reconstructions are becoming an established procedure to evaluate the factors that could impact virus spread. While a discrete phylogeographic approach can be used to test predictors of transition rates among discrete locations, alternative continuous phylogeographic reconstructions can also be exploited to investigate the impact of underlying environmental layers on the dispersal velocity of a virus. The two approaches are complementary tools for studying pathogens' spread, but in both cases, care must be taken to avoid misinterpretations. Here, we analyse rice yellow mottle virus (RYMV) sequence data from West and East Africa to illustrate how both approaches can be used to study the impact of environmental factors on the virus' dispersal frequency and velocity. While it was previously reported that host connectivity was a major determinant of RYMV spread, we show that this was a false positive result due to the lack of appropriate negative controls. We also discuss and compare the phylodynamic tools currently available for investigating the impact of environmental factors on virus spread.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbervey023
JournalVirus Evolution
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Landscape phylogeography
  • Molecular epidemiology
  • RYMV
  • Viral phylogeography


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