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Determining the transmissibility, prevalence and patterns of movement of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infections is central to our understanding of the impact of the pandemic and to the design of effective control strategies. Phylogenies (evolutionary trees) have provided key insights into the international spread of SARS-CoV-2 and enabled investigation of individual outbreaks and transmission chains in specific settings. Phylodynamic approaches combine evolutionary, demographic and epidemiological concepts and have helped track virus genetic changes, identify emerging variants and inform public health strategy. Here, we review and synthesize studies that illustrate how phylogenetic and phylodynamic techniques were applied during the first year of the pandemic, and summarize their contributions to our understanding of SARS-CoV-2 transmission and control.

Original publication




Journal article


Nat Rev Genet

Publication Date





547 - 562


COVID-19, Humans, Pandemics, Phylogeny, SARS-CoV-2