Tracking virus outbreaks in the twenty-first century

Nathan D Grubaugh, Jason T Ladner, Philippe Lemey, Oliver G Pybus, Andrew Rambaut, Edward C Holmes, Kristian G Andersen

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Emerging viruses have the potential to impose substantial mortality, morbidity and economic burdens on human populations. Tracking the spread of infectious diseases to assist in their control has traditionally relied on the analysis of case data gathered as the outbreak proceeds. Here, we describe how many of the key questions in infectious disease epidemiology, from the initial detection and characterization of outbreak viruses, to transmission chain tracking and outbreak mapping, can now be much more accurately addressed using recent advances in virus sequencing and phylogenetics. We highlight the utility of this approach with the hypothetical outbreak of an unknown pathogen, 'Disease X', suggested by the World Health Organization to be a potential cause of a future major epidemic. We also outline the requirements and challenges, including the need for flexible platforms that generate sequence data in real-time, and for these data to be shared as widely and openly as possible.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10-19
Number of pages10
JournalNature Microbiology
Issue number1
Early online date13 Dec 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2019


  • Genomics
  • Infectious diseases
  • Molecular evolution


Dive into the research topics of 'Tracking virus outbreaks in the twenty-first century'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this