Kristian G. Andersen, The Scripps Research Institute

Kristian G. Andersen, The Scripps Research Institute

Friday, 7 April 2017 at 11:00 in the CNR Seminar Room, EMBL Monterotondo

Kristian G. Andersen, The Scripps Research Institute

Tracking large-scale outbreaks using infectious disease genomics


The Ebola epidemic that ravaged West Africa from 2013 to 2016 was by far the largest outbreak of Ebola ever recorded. Weak healthcare infrastructure, overcrowded cities and community resistance to intervention allowed the epidemic to spin out of control. As the Ebola epidemic was winding down, another virus immediately took center stage - Zika. This virus had been causing multiple isolated epidemics since 2007, but was not recognized as a severe threat until it hit Brazil in 2015. It is now quickly spreading across the globe, causing a worldwide pandemic. Infectious disease outbreaks - such as those caused by Zika and Ebola - serve as stark reminders that emerging viruses pose one of the greatest threats to human health.

Our laboratory is using viral genomics, computational biology, and traditional molecular biology, to gain insights into how viruses emerge and spread in human populations. Our group sequenced and analyzed the first Zika virus dataset from local human transmissions and mosquitoes in Florida. All relevant data was immediately released into the public domain and our analyses made available via websites and online forums, before publication. Based on this data, we have been able to demonstrate that the Florida outbreak is much more complex than previously accepted. We show that multiple introductions happened into Florida in the spring of 2016 leading to sustained transmission chains. We show that these Zika virus lineages originated in the Caribbean and could have been brought to the United States via frequent cruise ship traffic. By modeling genomic data and mosquito abundance, we also show that Miami and Southern Florida is at particular risk for future Zika outbreaks.

Grubaugh et al. Multiple Introductions of Zika virus Into The United States Revealed Through Genomic Epidemiology. bioRxiv doi: 10.1101/104794 (2017).

Holmes, E. C., Duda, A., Rambaut, A. & Andersen, K. G. The Evolution of Ebola virus: Insights From the 2013-2016 Epidemic. Nature 538, 193-200 (2016).

Yozwiak, N. L. et al. Roots, Not Parachutes: Research Collaborations Combat Outbreaks. Cell 166, 5-8 (2016).

Andersen, K. G. et al. Clinical Sequencing Uncovers Origins and Evolution of Lassa Virus. Cell 162, 738-750 (2015).

Gire, S. K. et al. Surveillance Elucidates Ebola virus Origin and Transmission During The 2014 Outbreak. Science 345, 1369-1372 (2014).


Kristian G. Andersen has a PhD from the University of Cambridge in immunology and performed postdoctoral work in Pardis Sabeti's group at Harvard University and the Broad Institute. Over the past decade, his research has focused on the complex relationship between host and pathogen. Using a combination of next-generation sequencing, field work, experimentation and computational biology he has spearheaded large international collaborations investigating the spread and evolution of highly deadly pathogens, including Zika virus, Ebola virus, and Lassa virus.