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A large effective population size for established within-host influenza virus infection

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Zhao, Lei 
Breuer, Judith 
Illingworth, Christopher JR  ORCID logo


Strains of the influenza virus form coherent global populations, yet exist at the level of single infections in individual hosts. The relationship between these scales is a critical topic for understanding viral evolution. Here we investigate the within-host relationship between selection and the stochastic effects of genetic drift, estimating an effective population size of infection Ne for influenza infection. Examining whole-genome sequence data describing a chronic case of influenza B in a severely immunocompromised child we infer an Ne of 2.5 × 107 (95% confidence range 1.0 × 107 to 9.0 × 107) suggesting that genetic drift is of minimal importance during an established influenza infection. Our result, supported by data from influenza A infection, suggests that positive selection during within-host infection is primarily limited by the typically short period of infection. Atypically long infections may have a disproportionate influence upon global patterns of viral evolution.


Funder: Isaac Newton Trust; FundRef:

Funder: Helsingin Yliopisto; FundRef:


Short Report, Evolutionary Biology, Microbiology and Infectious Disease, within-host evolution, genetic drift, effective population size, selection, Virus

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eLife Sciences Publications, Ltd
Wellcome (101239/Z/13/Z)
Wellcome (101239/Z/13/A)
Wellcome (105365/Z/14/Z)