March 2019 dengue fever outbreak at the Kenyan south coast involving dengue virus serotype 3, genotypes III and V
Muthanje, Eric M.
Kituyi, Sarah N.
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The first description of a disease resembling dengue fever (DF) was in the 15 century slave trade era by Spanish sailors visiting the Tanzania coast. The disease, then associated with evil spirits is now known to be caused by four serotypes of dengue virus (DENV1-4) that are transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes. Kenya has experienced multiple outbreaks, mostly associated with DENV-2. In this study, plasma samples obtained from 37 febrile patients during a DF outbreak at Kenya’s south coast in March 2019 were screened for DENV. Total RNA was extracted and screened for the alpha- and flavi-viruses by real-time polymerase chain reaction (qPCR). DENV-3 was the only virus detected. Shotgun metagenomics and targeted sequencing were used to obtain DENV whole genomes and the complete envelope genes (E gene) respectively. Sequences were used to infer phylogenies and time-scaled genealogies. Following Maximum likelihood and Bayesian phylogenetic analysis, two DENV-3 genotypes (III, n = 15 and V, n = 2) were found. We determined that the two genotypes had been in circulation since 2015, and that both had been introduced independently. Genotype III’s origin was estimated to have been from Pakistan. Although the origin of genotype V could not be ascertained due to rarity of these sequences globally, it was most related to a 2006 Brazilian isolate. Unlike genotype III that has been described in East and West Africa multiple times, this was the second description of genotype V in Kenya. Of note, there was marked amino acid variances in the E gene between study samples and the Thailand DENV-3 strain used in the approved Dengvaxia vaccine. It remains to be seen whether these variances negatively impact the efficacy of the Dengvaxia or future vaccines.