Phylogeographic reconstruction of the emergence and spread of Powassan virus in the northeastern United States

Chantal B.F. Vogels, Doug E. Brackney, Alan P. Dupuis, Rebecca M. Robich, Joseph R. Fauver, Anderson F. Brito, Scott C. Williams, John F. Anderson, Charles B. Lubelczyk, Rachel E. Lange, Melissa A. Prusinski, Laura D. Kramer, Jody L. Gangloff-Kaufmann, Laura B. Goodman, Guy Baele, Robert P. Smith, Philip M. Armstrong, Alexander T. Ciota, Simon Dellicour, Nathan D. Grubaugh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Powassan virus is an emerging tick-borne virus of concern for public health, but very little is known about its transmission patterns and ecology. Here, we expanded the genomic dataset by sequencing 279 Powassan viruses isolated from Ixodes scapularis ticks from the northeastern United States. Our phylogeographic reconstructions revealed that Powassan virus lineage II was likely introduced or emerged from a relict population in the Northeast between 1940 and 1975. Sequences strongly clustered by sampling location, suggesting a highly focal geographical distribution. Our analyses further indicated that Powassan virus lineage II emerged in the northeastern United States mostly following a south-to-north pattern, with a weighted lineage dispersal velocity of ~3 km/y. Since the emergence in the Northeast, we found an overall increase in the effective population size of Powassan virus lineage II, but with growth stagnating during recent years. The cascading effect of population expansion of white-tailed deer and I. scapularis populations likely facilitated the emergence of Powassan virus in the northeastern United States.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2218012120
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number16
StatePublished - Apr 18 2023


  • Ixodes scapularis
  • deer tick virus
  • genomics
  • tick-borne flavivirus
  • ticks

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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