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1.  Dominance of HIV-1 Subtype CRF01_AE in Sexually Acquired Cases Leads to a New Epidemic in Yunnan Province of China 
PLoS Medicine  2006;3(11):e443.
Dating back to the first epidemic among injection drug users in 1989, the Yunnan province has had the highest number of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) infections in China. However, the molecular epidemiology of HIV-1 in Yunnan has not been fully characterized.
Methods and Findings
Using immunoassays, we identified 103,015 accumulated cases of HIV-1 infections in Yunnan between 1989 and 2004. We studied 321 patients representing Yunnan's 16 prefectures from four risk groups, 11 ethnic populations, and ten occupations. We identified three major circulating subtypes: C/CRF07_BC/CRF08_BC (53%), CRF01_AE (40.5%), and B (6.5%) by analyzing the sequence of p17, which is part of the gag gene. For patients with known risk factors, 90.9% of injection drug users had C/CRF07_BC/CRF08_BC viruses, whereas 85.4% of CRF01_AE infections were acquired through sexual transmission. No distinct segregation of CRF01_AE viruses was found among the Dai ethnic group. Geographically, C/CRF07_BC/CRF08_BC was found throughout the province, while CRF01_AE was largely confined to the prefectures bordering Myanmar. Furthermore, C/CRF07_BC/CRF08_BC viruses were found to consist of a group of viruses, including C, CRF08_BC, CRF07_BC, and new BC recombinants, based on the characterization of their reverse transcriptase genes.
This is the first report of a province-wide HIV-1 molecular epidemiological study in Yunnan. While C/CRF07_BC/CRF08_BC and CRF01_AE are codominant, the discovery of many sexually transmitted CRF01_AE cases is new and suggests that this subtype may lead to a new epidemic in the general Chinese population. We discuss implications of our results for understanding the evolution of the HIV-1 pandemic and for vaccine development.
This is a molecular epidemiology study of circulating HIV strains and subtypes in Yunnan province, which has China's largest number of HIV-infected individuals.
Editors' Summary
The first human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) cases in China were seen in 1989 in Yunnan, a region of south-western China. This area borders Myanmar, Laos, and Vietnam, and is a major entry point for illegal drugs into China. The initial HIV outbreak in this area was in injecting drug users, but HIV is beginning to affect other groups of people in the Yunnan province and is becoming more common across China. There is still not much known about the different types of HIV virus in China and which parts of the population are most likely to be infected. This knowledge is important because it can help people to understand how the epidemic started and how it is likely to spread in the future, and because it helps direct efforts for HIV education and prevention. It is also necessary for the future design of appropriate HIV vaccines.
Why Was This Study Done?
The Yunnan province has the highest rate of HIV-infected individuals in China. It is an important entry point of new HIV virus types into China, and some of the HIV types found in patients in other parts of China appear to have spread from Yunnan. A group of researchers from the United States and China wanted to look at the different types of HIV virus that were infecting people in the Yunnan province and to work out how these types had evolved over the course of the HIV epidemic in China. They focused on human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1), the most common form of HIV virus worldwide and also the most infectious. There are at least nine distinct subtypes of HIV-1, and the virus continues to evolve and to form new subtypes.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
They collected blood samples from 321 HIV-infected individuals who represented a broad cross-section of the population of Yunnan (people from all geographic parts of the province, 11 ethnic populations, different occupations, etc.) and analyzed the genetic information of the viruses found in these blood samples. Because HIV evolves very rapidly, the genetic information differs between different virus subtypes, and the researchers could therefore tell which subtypes were infecting which subsets of the population. The researchers identified three distinct subtypes of HIV-1: “B” (in about 6.5% of the samples), a group of “C” variants (C/CRF07_BC/CRF08_BC in 53% of the samples), and CRF01_AE (in 40.5%). The CRF01_AE subtype had not previously been reported at such high levels in the Chinese population, and people who were thought to have been infected with HIV through sexual contact (as opposed to contaminated needles) were more likely to be infected with that particular subtype.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The results show a dynamic and evolving pattern of HIV types in the Yunnan province, segregating among different parts of the population. Sexual transmission appears to be on the rise, suggesting that the epidemic could spread rapidly from high-risk groups such as drug users to the general population. HIV/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) education and prevention efforts in the general population are therefore urgently needed. It is also likely that some of the developments of the HIV epidemic in the Yunnan province will be similar in other parts of China as the various subtypes spread. The results of the study also have implications for future HIV vaccine development. Given the range of subtypes, it will be necessary either to develop vaccines that can protect against all the circulating subtypes, or to have a cocktail of several vaccines that each protects against some of them.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
Information from AVERT, an international AIDS charity on HIV subtypes and HIV in China
The UNAIDS on AIDS in Asia
The China AIDS Network—a charity devoted to AIDS research in China
PMCID: PMC1635743  PMID: 17105339
2.  Identification and Characterization of CRF02_AG, CRF06_cpx, and CRF09_cpx Recombinant Subtypes in Mali, West Africa 
Multiple HIV-1 subtypes and circulating recombinant forms (CRFs) are known to cocirculate in Africa. In West Africa, the high prevalence of CRF02_AG, and cocirculation of subtype A, CRF01_AE, CRF06_cpx, and other complex intersubtype recombinants has been well documented. Mali, situated in the heart of West Africa, is likely to be affected by the spread of recombinant subtypes. However, the dynamics of the spread of HIV-1 recombinant subtypes as well as nonrecombinant HIV-1 group M subtypes in this area have not been systematically assessed. Herein, we undertook genetic analyses on full-length env sequences derived from HIV-1-infected individuals living in the capital city of Mali, Bamako. Of 23 samples we examined, 16 were classified as CRF02_AG and three had a subsubtype A3. Among the remaining HIV-1 strains, CRF06_cpx and CRF09_cpx were each found in two patients. Comparison of phylogenies for six matched pol and full-length env sequences revealed that two strains had discordant subtype/CRF designations between the pol and env regions: one had A3polCRF02_AGenv and the other had CRF02_AGpolA3env. Taken together, our study demonstrated the high prevalence of CRF02_AG and complexity of circulating HIV-1 strains in Mali. It also provided evidence of ongoing virus evolution of CRF02_AG, as illustrated by the emergence of more complex CRF02_AG/A3 intersubtype recombinants in this area.
PMCID: PMC2981380  PMID: 19182920
3.  HIV-1 Transmission during Early Infection in Men Who Have Sex with Men: A Phylodynamic Analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(12):e1001568.
Erik Volz and colleagues use HIV genetic information from a cohort of men who have sex with men in Detroit, USA to dissect the timing of onward transmission during HIV infection.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Conventional epidemiological surveillance of infectious diseases is focused on characterization of incident infections and estimation of the number of prevalent infections. Advances in methods for the analysis of the population-level genetic variation of viruses can potentially provide information about donors, not just recipients, of infection. Genetic sequences from many viruses are increasingly abundant, especially HIV, which is routinely sequenced for surveillance of drug resistance mutations. We conducted a phylodynamic analysis of HIV genetic sequence data and surveillance data from a US population of men who have sex with men (MSM) and estimated incidence and transmission rates by stage of infection.
Methods and Findings
We analyzed 662 HIV-1 subtype B sequences collected between October 14, 2004, and February 24, 2012, from MSM in the Detroit metropolitan area, Michigan. These sequences were cross-referenced with a database of 30,200 patients diagnosed with HIV infection in the state of Michigan, which includes clinical information that is informative about the recency of infection at the time of diagnosis. These data were analyzed using recently developed population genetic methods that have enabled the estimation of transmission rates from the population-level genetic diversity of the virus. We found that genetic data are highly informative about HIV donors in ways that standard surveillance data are not. Genetic data are especially informative about the stage of infection of donors at the point of transmission. We estimate that 44.7% (95% CI, 42.2%–46.4%) of transmissions occur during the first year of infection.
In this study, almost half of transmissions occurred within the first year of HIV infection in MSM. Our conclusions may be sensitive to un-modeled intra-host evolutionary dynamics, un-modeled sexual risk behavior, and uncertainty in the stage of infected hosts at the time of sampling. The intensity of transmission during early infection may have significance for public health interventions based on early treatment of newly diagnosed individuals.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Since the first recorded case of AIDS in 1981, the number of people infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, has risen steadily. About 34 million people are currently HIV-positive, and about 2.5 million people become newly infected with HIV every year. Because HIV is usually transmitted through unprotected sex with an infected partner, individuals can reduce their risk of infection by abstaining from sex, by having only one or a few partners, and by always using condoms. Most people do not become ill immediately after infection with HIV, although some develop a short flu-like illness. The next stage of HIV infection, which may last more than ten years, also has no major symptoms, but during this stage, HIV slowly destroys immune system cells. Eventually, the immune system can no longer fight off infections by other disease-causing organisms, and HIV-positive people then develop one or more life-threatening AIDS-defining conditions, including unusual infections and specific types of cancer. HIV infection can be controlled, but not cured, by taking a daily cocktail of antiretroviral drugs.
Why Was This Study Done?
The design of effective programs to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS depends on knowing how HIV transmissibility varies over the course of HIV infection. Consider, for example, a prevention strategy that focuses on increasing treatment rates: antiretroviral drugs, in addition to reducing illness and death among HIV-positive people, reduce HIV transmission from HIV-positive individuals. “Treatment as prevention” can only block transmissions that occur after diagnosis and entry into care. However, the transmissibility of HIV per sexual contact depends on a person's viral load, which peaks during early HIV infection, when people are often unaware of their HIV status and may still be following the high-risk patterns of sexual behavior that caused their own infection. Epidemiological surveillance data (information on HIV infections within populations) can be used to estimate how many new HIV infections occur within a population annually (HIV incidence) and the proportion of the population that is HIV-positive (HIV prevalence), but cannot be used to estimate the timing of transmission events. In this study, the researchers use “phylodynamic analysis” to estimate HIV incidence and prevalence and the timing of HIV transmission during infection. HIV, like many other viruses, rapidly accumulates genetic changes. The timing of transmission influences the pattern of these changes. Viral phylodynamic analysis—the quantitative study of how epidemiological, immunological, and evolutionary processes shape viral phylogenies (evolutionary trees)—can therefore provide estimates of transmission dynamics.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers obtained HIV sequence data (collected for routine surveillance of antiretroviral resistance mutations) and epidemiological surveillance data (including information on the stage of infection at diagnosis) for 662 HIV-positive men who have sex with men living in the Detroit metropolitan area of Michigan. They constructed a phylogenetic tree from the sequences using a “relaxed clock” approach and then fitted an epidemiological model (a mathematical model that represents the progress of individual patients through various stages of HIV infection) to the sequence data. Their approach, which integrates surveillance data and genetic data, yielded estimates of HIV incidence and prevalence among the study population similar to those obtained from surveillance data alone. However, it also provided information about HIV transmission that could not be obtained from surveillance data alone. In particular, it allowed the researchers to estimate that, in the current HIV epidemic among men who have sex with men in Detroit, 44.7% of HIV transmissions occur during the first year of infection.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The robustness of these findings depends on the validity of the assumptions included in the researchers' population genetic model and on the accuracy of the data fed into the model, and may not be generalizable to other cities or to other risk groups. Nevertheless, the findings of this analysis, which can be repeated in any setting where HIV sequence data for individual patients can be linked to patient-specific clinical and behavioral information, have important implications for HIV control strategies based on the early treatment of newly diagnosed individuals. Because relatively few infected individuals are diagnosed during early HIV infection, when the HIV transmission rate is high, it is unlikely, suggest the researchers, that the “treatment as prevention” strategy will effectively control the spread of HIV unless there are very high rates of HIV testing and treatment.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
This study is further discussed in a PLOS Medicine Perspective by Timothy Hallett
Information is available from the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases on HIV infection and AIDS
NAM/aidsmap provides basic information about HIV/AIDS and summaries of recent research findings on HIV care and treatment
Information is available from Avert, an international AIDS charity, on many aspects of HIV/AIDS, including information on HIV treatment as prevention (in English and Spanish)
The PLOS Medicine Collection Investigating the Impact of Treatment on New HIV Infections provides more information about HIV treatment as prevention
A PLOS Computational Biology Topic Page (a review article that is a published copy of record of a dynamic version of the article as found in Wikipedia) about viral phylodynamics is available
The US National Institute of Health–funded HIV Sequence Database contains HIV sequences and tools to analyze these sequences
Patient stories about living with HIV/AIDS are available through Avert; the charity website Healthtalkonline also provides personal stories about living with HIV
PMCID: PMC3858227  PMID: 24339751
4.  New and old complex recombinant HIV-1 strains among patients with primary infection in 1996–2006 in France: The French ANRS CO06 primo cohort study 
Retrovirology  2008;5:69.
Prevalence of HIV-1 non-B subtypes has increased overtime in patients diagnosed at the time of primary infection (PHI) in France. Our objective was to characterize in detail non-B strains which could not be genetically classified into the known subtypes/Circulating Recombinant Forms (CRFs).
Among 744 patients enrolled in the ANRS PRIMO Cohort since 1996, 176 (23.7%) were infected with HIV-1 non-B strains. The subtype/CRF could not be identified in RT for 15 (2%). The V3-V5 env region was sequenced and 3 strains (04FR-KZS, 06FR-CRN, 04FR-AUK) were full-length sequenced. Phylogenetic and bootscan analyses were used to characterize the mosaic structures.
Among V3-V5 sequences, 6 were divergent A, 2 distantly related to E or D, 2 C, 1 B and 2 remained unclassified. 04FR-KZS, isolated in a Congolese woman infected in France, clustered with 2 previously described viruses from the Democratic Republic of Congo. They represent CRF27_cpx involving A/E/G/H/J/K/U subtypes. 06FR-CRN, isolated in a homosexual Caucasian patient, was a B/C/U recombinant involving a Brazilian C strain. 04FR-AUK, isolated in a Congolese patient infected in France, was a A/K/CRF09/U recombinant clustering from gag to vif with HIV-1 MAL. Others PHI were further observed in 2006–2007 with 1 KZS and 5 CRN-like viruses, suggesting their spread in France.
This study illustrates the increasing HIV-1 diversity in France associating new (06FR-CRN) and old (CRF27_cpx and "MAL-like" 04FR-AUK) strains, which are rare in their region of origin but may have a possible founder effect in France. Our results strengthen the French guidelines recommending viro-epidemiological surveillance of HIV-1 diversity.
PMCID: PMC2553414  PMID: 18673538
5.  The Evolution of HIV-1 Diversity in Rural Cameroon and its Implications in Vaccine Design and Trials 
Viruses  2010;2(2):639-654.
West-Central Africa is an epicenter of the HIV pandemic; endemic to Cameroon are HIV-1 viruses belonging to all (sub)subtypes and numerous Circulating Recombinant Forms (CRFs). The rural villages of Cameroon harbor many strains of HIV-1, though these areas are not as well monitored as the urban centers. In the present study, 82 specimens obtained in 2000 and 2001 from subjects living in the rural villages of the South and West Regions of Cameroon were subtyped in gag, pol, and env and compared to 90 specimens obtained in 2006–2008 in the same regions, in order to analyze HIV-1 evolution in these rural areas. It was found that in the South Region, the proportion of unique recombinant forms (URFs) remained constant (~40%), while the amount of URFs containing fragments of a CRF increased by 25%. (Sub)subtypes A1, F2, H, and K, and CRF09_cpx, identified in 2000 and 2001, were replaced by CRFs 01_AE, 13_cpx, 14_BG, and 18_cpx in 2006–2008. In the West Region, (sub)subtypes A2, C, G, and H, and CRFs 01_AE and 09_cpx, identified in 2000–2001, were replaced by sub-subtype A1 and CRFs 25_cpx and 37_cpx in 2006–2008. The proportion of URFs in the West Region dropped significantly over the time period by 43%. In both Regions, the proportion of CRF02_AG increased at all loci. These findings demonstrate that the evolution of HIV-1 is distinct for each endemic region, and suggests that the proportion of URFs containing CRF fragments is increasing as the genetic identity of the virus continues to shift dramatically. This highlights the concern that subtype-specific vaccines may not be relevant in Cameroon, and that the distribution of viral diversity in these regions of Cameroon must be carefully monitored.
PMCID: PMC2975583  PMID: 21072143
HIV-1 Diversity; Rural Cameroon; phylogenetics
6.  The Evolution of HIV-1 Diversity in Rural Cameroon and its Implications in Vaccine Design and Trials 
Viruses  2010;2(2):639-654.
West-Central Africa is an epicenter of the HIV pandemic; endemic to Cameroon are HIV-1 viruses belonging to all (sub)subtypes and numerous Circulating Recombinant Forms (CRFs). The rural villages of Cameroon harbor many strains of HIV-1, though these areas are not as well monitored as the urban centers. In the present study, 82 specimens obtained in 2000 and 2001 from subjects living in the rural villages of the South and West Regions of Cameroon were subtyped in gag, pol, and env and compared to 90 specimens obtained in 2006–2008 in the same regions, in order to analyze HIV-1 evolution in these rural areas. It was found that in the South Region, the proportion of unique recombinant forms (URFs) remained constant (∼40%), while the amount of URFs containing fragments of a CRF increased by 25%. (Sub)subtypes A1, F2, H, and K, and CRF09_cpx, identified in 2000 and 2001, were replaced by CRFs 01_AE, 13_cpx, 14_BG, and 18_cpx in 2006–2008. In the West Region, (sub)subtypes A2, C, G, and H, and CRFs 01_AE and 09_cpx, identified in 2000–2001, were replaced by sub-subtype A1 and CRFs 25_cpx and 37_cpx in 2006–2008. The proportion of URFs in the West Region dropped significantly over the time period by 43%. In both Regions, the proportion of CRF02_AG increased at all loci. These findings demonstrate that the evolution of HIV-1 is distinct for each endemic region, and suggests that the proportion of URFs containing CRF fragments is increasing as the genetic identity of the virus continues to shift dramatically. This highlights the concern that subtype-specific vaccines may not be relevant in Cameroon, and that the distribution of viral diversity in these regions of Cameroon must be carefully monitored.
PMCID: PMC2975583  PMID: 21072143
HIV-1 Diversity; Rural Cameroon; phylogenetics
7.  Profile of the HIV Epidemic in Cape Verde: Molecular Epidemiology and Drug Resistance Mutations among HIV-1 and HIV-2 Infected Patients from Distinct Islands of the Archipelago 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(4):e96201.
HIV-1 and HIV-2 have been detected in Cape Verde since 1987, but little is known regarding the genetic diversity of these viruses in this archipelago, located near the West African coast. In this study, we characterized the molecular epidemiology of HIV-1 and HIV-2 and described the occurrence of drug resistance mutations (DRM) among antiretroviral therapy naïve (ARTn) patients and patients under treatment (ARTexp) from different Cape Verde islands. Blood samples, socio-demographic and clinical-laboratory data were obtained from 221 HIV-positive individuals during 2010–2011. Phylogenetic and bootscan analyses of the pol region (1300 bp) were performed for viral subtyping. HIV-1 and HIV-2 DRM were evaluated for ARTn and ARTexp patients using the Stanford HIV Database and HIV-GRADE e.V. Algorithm Homepage, respectively. Among the 221 patients (169 [76.5%] HIV-1, 43 [19.5%] HIV-2 and 9 [4.1%] HIV-1/HIV-2 co-infections), 67% were female. The median ages were 34 (IQR = 1–75) and 47 (IQR = 12–84) for HIV-1 and HIV-2, respectively. HIV-1 infections were due to subtypes G (36.6%), CRF02_AG (30.6%), F1 (9.7%), URFs (10.4%), B (5.2%), CRF05_DF (3.0%), C (2.2%), CRF06_cpx (0.7%), CRF25_cpx (0.7%) and CRF49_cpx (0.7%), whereas all HIV-2 infections belonged to group A. Transmitted DRM (TDRM) was observed in 3.4% (2/58) of ARTn HIV-1-infected patients (1.7% NRTI, 1.7% NNRTI), but not among those with HIV-2. Among ARTexp patients, DRM was observed in 47.8% (33/69) of HIV-1 (37.7% NRTI, 37.7% NNRTI, 7.4% PI, 33.3% for two classes) and 17.6% (3/17) of HIV-2-infections (17.6% NRTI, 11.8% PI, 11.8% both). This study indicates that Cape Verde has a complex and unique HIV-1 molecular epidemiological scenario dominated by HIV-1 subtypes G, CRF02_AG and F1 and HIV-2 subtype A. The occurrence of TDRM and the relatively high level of DRM among treated patients are of concern. Continuous monitoring of patients on ART, including genotyping, are public policies to be implemented.
PMCID: PMC3999145  PMID: 24763617
8.  Phylodynamics of the HIV-1 Epidemic in Cuba 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(9):e72448.
Previous studies have shown that the HIV-1 epidemic in Cuba displayed a complex molecular epidemiologic profile with circulation of several subtypes and circulating recombinant forms (CRF); but the evolutionary and population history of those viral variants remains unknown. HIV-1 pol sequences of the most prevalent Cuban lineages (subtypes B, C and G, CRF18_cpx, CRF19_cpx, and CRFs20/23/24_BG) isolated between 1999 and 2011 were analyzed. Maximum-likelihood analyses revealed multiple introductions of subtype B (n≥66), subtype C (n≥10), subtype G (n≥8) and CRF18_cpx (n≥2) viruses in Cuba. The bulk of HIV-1 infections in this country, however, was caused by dissemination of a few founder strains probably introduced from North America/Europe (clades BCU-I and BCU-II), east Africa (clade CCU-I) and central Africa (clades GCU, CRF18CU and CRF19CU), or locally generated (clades CRFs20/23/24_BG). Bayesian-coalescent analyses show that the major HIV-1 founder strains were introduced into Cuba during 1985–1995; whereas the CRFs_BG strains emerged in the second half of the 1990s. Most HIV-1 Cuban clades appear to have experienced an initial period of fast exponential spread during the 1990s and early 2000s, followed by a more recent decline in growth rate. The median initial growth rate of HIV-1 Cuban clades ranged from 0.4 year−1 to 1.6 year−1. Thus, the HIV-1 epidemic in Cuba has been a result of the successful introduction of a few viral strains that began to circulate at a rather late time of the AIDS pandemic, but then were rapidly disseminated through local transmission networks.
PMCID: PMC3767668  PMID: 24039765
9.  Recombinant Viruses Initiated the Early HIV-1 Epidemic in Burkina Faso 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e92423.
We analyzed genetic diversity and phylogenetic relationships among 124 HIV-1 and 19 HIV-2 strains in sera collected in 1986 from patients of the state hospital in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. Phylogenetic analysis of the HIV-1 env gp41 region of 65 sequences characterized 37 (56.9%) as CRF06_cpx strains, 25 (38.5%) as CRF02_AG, 2 (3.1%) as CRF09_cpx, and 1 (1.5%) as subtype A. Similarly, phylogenetic analysis of the protease (PR) gene region of 73 sequences identified 52 (71.2%) as CRF06_cpx, 15 (20.5%) as CRF02_AG, 5 (6.8%) as subtype A, and 1 (1.4%) was a unique strain that clustered along the B/D lineage but basal to the node connecting the two lineages. HIV-2 PR or integrase (INT) groups A (n = 17 [89.5%]) and B (n = 2 [10.5%]) were found in both monotypic (n = 11) and heterotypic HIV-1/HIV-2 (n = 8) infections, with few HIV-2 group B infections. Based on limited available sampling, evidence suggests two recombinant viruses, CRF06_cpx and CRF02_AG, appear to have driven the beginning of the mid-1980s HIV-1 epidemic in Burkina Faso.
PMCID: PMC3960253  PMID: 24647246
10.  HIV-1 Genetic Characteristics and Transmitted Drug Resistance among Men Who Have Sex with Men in Kunming, China 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e87033.
Yunnan has been severely affected by HIV/AIDS in China. Recently, the reported prevalence of HIV-1 among men who have sex with men (MSM) in Yunnan was high in China. To monitor dynamic HIV-1 epidemic among Yunnan MSM, HIV-1 genetic characteristics and transmitted drug resistance (TDR) were investigated.
Blood samples from 131 newly HIV-1 diagnosed MSM were continuously collected at fixed sites from January 2010 to December 2012 in Kunming City, Yunnan Province. Partial gag, pol and env genes were sequenced. Phylogenetic, evolutionary and genotypic drug resistance analyses were performed.
Multiple genotypes were identified among MSM in Kunming, including CRF01_AE (64.9%), CRF07_BC (25.2%), unique recombinant forms (URFs, 5.3%), subtype B (3.1%) and CRF08_BC (1.5%). CRF01_AE and CRF07_BC were the predominant strains. The mean of genetic distance within CRF01_AE were larger than that within CRF07_BC. The estimated introducing time of CRF01_AE in Yunnan MSM (1996.9) is earlier than that of CRF07_BC (2002.8). In this study, subtype B was first identified in Yunnan MSM. CRF08_BC seems to be the distinctive strain in Yunnan MSM, which was seldom found among MSM outside Yunnan. The proportion of URFs increased, which further contributed to genetic diversity among MSM. Strikingly, genetic relatedness was found among these strains with MSM isolates from multiple provinces, which suggested that a nationwide transmission network may exist. TDR-associated mutations were identified in 4.6% individuals. The multivariate analysis revealed that non-native MSM and divorced/widowed MSM were independently associated with a higher TDR rate.
This work revealed diverse HIV-1 genetics, national transmission networks and a baseline level of TDR in MSM. These findings enhance our understanding of the distribution and evolution of HIV-1 in MSM, and are valuable for developing HIV prevention strategies for MSM.
PMCID: PMC3906090  PMID: 24489829
11.  Prevention of mother-to-child HIV-1 transmission in Burkina Faso: evaluation of vertical transmission by PCR, molecular characterization of subtypes and determination of antiretroviral drugs resistance 
Global Health Action  2015;8:10.3402/gha.v8.26065.
Vertical human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) transmission is a public health problem in Burkina Faso. The main objective of this study on the prevention of mother-to-child HIV-1 transmission was to determine the residual risk of HIV transmission in infants born to mothers receiving highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART). Moreover, we detect HIV antiretroviral (ARV) drug resistance among mother–infant pairs and identify subtypes and circulating recombinant forms (CRF) in Burkina Faso.
In this study, 3,215 samples of pregnant women were analyzed for HIV using rapid tests. Vertical transmission was estimated by polymerase chain reaction in 6-month-old infants born to women who tested HIV positive. HIV-1 resistance to ARV, subtypes, and CRFs was determined through ViroSeq kit using the ABI PRISM 3,130 sequencer.
In this study, 12.26% (394/3,215) of the pregnant women were diagnosed HIV positive. There was 0.52% (2/388) overall vertical transmission of HIV, with rates of 1.75% (2/114) among mothers under prophylaxis and 0.00% (0/274) for those under HAART. Genetic mutations were also isolated that induce resistance to ARV such as M184V, Y115F, K103N, Y181C, V179E, and G190A. There were subtypes and CRF of HIV-1 present, the most common being: CRF06_CPX (58.8%), CRF02_AG (35.3%), and subtype G (5.9%).
ARV drugs reduce the residual rate of HIV vertical transmission. However, the virus has developed resistance to ARV, which could limit future therapeutic options when treatment is needed. Resistance to ARV therefore requires a permanent interaction between researchers, physicians, and pharmacists, to strengthen the network of monitoring and surveillance of drug resistance in Burkina Faso.
PMCID: PMC4309832  PMID: 25630709
pregnant women; HAART; sequencing; genotypes; mutations
12.  Genetic Diversity and Drug Resistance Mutations in HIV-1 from Untreated Patients in Niamey, Niger 
ISRN Microbiology  2011;2011:797463.
The objective of the study was to estimate the prevalence of transmitted resistance to antiretroviral of HIV-1 circulating in Niger. We collected plasmas from 96 drug-naive patients followed up in the main HIV/AIDS Care Center of Niamey, the capital city of Niger. After RNA extraction and retrotranscription to proviral DNA, nested PCR was performed to amplify PR (codons 1–99) and RT (codons 1–240) fragments for sequencing. Sequences were analysed for phylogeny, then for resistance-associated mutations according to IAS-USA and Stanford's lists of mutations. We characterized six HIV-1 genetic variants: CRF02-AG (56.3%), CRF30_0206 (15.6%), subtype G (15.6%), CRF06_cpx (9.4%), CRF11_cpx (2.1%), and CRF01_AE (1%). About 8.3% of HIV strains had at least 1 resistance mutation: 4 strains with at least 1 mutation to NRTI, 5 for NNRTI, and 1 for PI, respectiveley 4.2%, 5.2%, and 1.0%. These preliminary results gave enough information for the need of instauring HIV drug resistance national surveillance.
PMCID: PMC3658845  PMID: 23724311
13.  Molecular Characterization of Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 (HIV-1) and HIV-2 in Yaoundé, Cameroon: Evidence of Major Drug Resistance Mutations in Newly Diagnosed Patients Infected with Subtypes Other than Subtype B▿  
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2007;46(1):177-184.
Prior to current studies on the emergence of drug resistance with the introduction of antiretroviral therapy (ART) in Cameroon, we performed genotypic analysis on samples from drug-naïve, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infected individuals in this country. Of the 79 HIV type 1 (HIV-1) pol sequences analyzed from Cameroonian samples, 3 (3.8%) were identified as HIV-1 group O, 1 (1.2%) was identified as an HIV-2 intergroup B/A recombinant, and the remaining 75 (95.0%) were identified as HIV-1 group M. Group M isolates were further classified as subtypes A1 (n = 4), D (n = 4), F2 (n = 6), G (n = 12), H (n = 2), and K (n = 1) and as circulating recombinant forms CRF02_AG (n = 41), CRF11_cpx (n = 1), and CRF13_cpx (n = 2). Two pol sequences were identified as unique recombinant forms of CRF02_AG/F2 (n = 2). M46L (n = 2), a major resistance mutation associated with resistance to protease inhibitors, was observed in 2/75 (2.6%) group M samples. Single mutations associated with resistance to nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (T215Y/F [n = 3]) and nonnucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (V108I [n = 1], L100I [n = 1], and Y181C [n = 2]) were observed in 7 of 75 (9.3%) group M samples. None of the patients had any history of ART exposure. Population surveillance of transmitted HIV drug resistance is required and should be included to aid in the development of appropriate guidelines.
PMCID: PMC2224252  PMID: 17855574
14.  Identification of new, emerging HIV-1 unique recombinant forms and drug resistant viruses circulating in Cameroon 
Virology Journal  2011;8:185.
The HIV epidemic in Cameroon is characterized by a high degree of viral genetic diversity with circulating recombinant forms (CRFs) being predominant. The goal of our study was to determine recent trends in virus evolution and emergence of drug resistance in blood donors and HIV positive patients.
Blood specimens of 73 individuals were collected from three cities and a few villages in Cameroon and viruses were isolated by co-cultivation with PBMCs. Nested PCR was performed for gag p17 (670 bp) pol (840 bp) and Env gp41 (461 bp) genes. Sequences were phylogenetically analyzed using a reference set of sequences from the Los Alamos database.
Phylogenetic analysis based on partial sequences revealed that 65% (n = 48) of strains were CRF02_AG, 4% (n = 3) subtype F2, 1% each belonged to CRF06 (n = 1), CRF11 (n = 1), subtype G (n = 1), subtype D (n = 1), CRF22_01A1 (n = 1), and 26% (n = 18) were Unique Recombinant Forms (URFs). Most URFs contained CRF02_AG in one or two HIV gene fragments analyzed. Furthermore, pol sequences of 61 viruses revealed drug resistance in 55.5% of patients on therapy and 44% of drug naïve individuals in the RT and protease regions. Overall URFs that had a primary HIV subtype designation in the pol region showed higher HIV-1 p24 levels than other recombinant forms in cell culture based replication kinetics studies.
Our results indicate that although CRF02_AG continues to be the predominant strain in Cameroon, phylogenetically the HIV epidemic is continuing to evolve as multiple recombinants of CRF02_AG and URFs were identified in the individuals studied. CRF02_AG recombinants that contained the pol region of a primary subtype showed higher replicative advantage than other variants. Identification of drug resistant strains in drug-naïve patients suggests that these viruses are being transmitted in the population studied. Our findings support the need for continued molecular surveillance in this region of West Central Africa and investigating impact of variants on diagnostics, viral load and drug resistance assays on an ongoing basis.
PMCID: PMC3118203  PMID: 21513545
15.  CRF19_cpx is an Evolutionary fit HIV-1 Variant Strongly Associated With Rapid Progression to AIDS in Cuba 
EBioMedicine  2015;2(3):244-254.
Clinicians reported an increasing trend of rapid progression (RP) (AIDS within 3 years of infection) in Cuba.
Recently infected patients were prospectively sampled, 52 RP at AIDS diagnosis (AIDS-RP) and 21 without AIDS in the same time frame (non-AIDS). 22 patients were sampled at AIDS diagnosis (chronic-AIDS) retrospectively assessed as > 3 years infected. Clinical, demographic, virological, epidemiological and immunological data were collected. Pol and env sequences were used for subtyping, transmission cluster analysis, and prediction of resistance, co-receptor use and evolutionary fitness. Host, immunological and viral predictors of RP were explored through data mining.
Subtyping revealed 26 subtype B strains, 6 C, 6 CRF18_cpx, 9 CRF19_cpx, 29 BG-recombinants and other subtypes/URFs. All patients infected with CRF19 belonged to the AIDS-RP group. Data mining identified CRF19, oral candidiasis and RANTES levels as the strongest predictors of AIDS-RP. CRF19 was more frequently predicted to use the CXCR4 co-receptor, had higher fitness scores in the protease region, and patients had higher viral load at diagnosis.
CRF19 is a recombinant of subtype D (C-part of Gag, PR, RT and nef), subtype A (N-part of Gag, Integrase, Env) and subtype G (Vif, Vpr, Vpu and C-part of Env). Since subtypes D and A have been associated with respectively faster and slower disease progression, our findings might indicate a fit PR driving high viral load, which in combination with co-infections may boost RANTES levels and thus CXCR4 use, potentially explaining the fast progression. We propose that CRF19 is evolutionary very fit and causing rapid progression to AIDS in many newly infected patients in Cuba.
•We propose that CRF19 is evolutionary very fit, causing rapid progression to AIDS in many newly infected patients in Cuba.•CRF19 is a recombinant of subtype D, subtype A and subtype G, with a subtype D protease estimated to be particularly fit.•A fit protease with high viral load and co-infections, may boost RANTES levels and thus CXCR4 use, hence fast progression.
PMCID: PMC4484819  PMID: 26137563
CRF19; HIV-1; Variant; Progression to AIDS; Cuba
16.  A Newly Emerging HIV-1 Recombinant Lineage (CRF58_01B) Disseminating among People Who Inject Drugs in Malaysia 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e85250.
The HIV epidemic is primarily characterised by the circulation of HIV-1 group M (main) comprising of 11 subtypes and sub-subtypes (A1, A2, B–D, F1, F2, G, H, J, and K) and to date 55 circulating recombinant forms (CRFs). In Southeast Asia, active inter-subtype recombination involving three main circulating genotypes—subtype B (including subtype B′, the Thai variant of subtype B), CRF01_AE, and CRF33_01B—have contributed to the emergence of novel unique recombinant forms. In the present study, we conducted the molecular epidemiological surveillance of HIV-1 gag-RT genes among 258 people who inject drugs (PWIDs) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, between 2009 and 2011 whereby a novel CRF candidate was recently identified. The near full-length genome sequences obtained from six epidemiologically unlinked individuals showed identical mosaic structures consisting of subtype B′ and CRF01_AE, with six unique recombination breakpoints in the gag-RT, pol, and env regions. Among the high-risk population of PWIDs in Malaysia, which was predominantly infected by CRF33_01B (>70%), CRF58_01B circulated at a low but significant prevalence (2.3%, 6/258). Interestingly, the CRF58_01B shared two unique recombination breakpoints with other established CRFs in the region: CRF33_01B, CRF48_01B, and CRF53_01B in the gag gene, and CRF15_01B (from Thailand) in the env gene. Extended Bayesian Markov chain Monte Carlo sampling analysis showed that CRF58_01B and other recently discovered CRFs were most likely to have originated in Malaysia, and that the recent spread of recombinant lineages in the country had little influence from neighbouring countries. The isolation, genetic characterization, and evolutionary features of CRF58_01B among PWIDs in Malaysia signify the increasingly complex HIV-1 diversity in Southeast Asia that may hold an implication on disease treatment, control, and prevention.
PMCID: PMC3898983  PMID: 24465513
17.  Molecular Diversity of HIV-1 among People Who Inject Drugs in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: Massive Expansion of Circulating Recombinant Form (CRF) 33_01B and Emergence of Multiple Unique Recombinant Clusters 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(5):e62560.
Since the discovery of HIV-1 circulating recombinant form (CRF) 33_01B in Malaysia in the early 2000 s, continuous genetic diversification and active recombination involving CRF33_01B and other circulating genotypes in the region including CRF01_AE and subtype B′ of Thai origin, have led to the emergence of novel CRFs and unique recombinant forms. The history and magnitude of CRF33_01B transmission among various risk groups including people who inject drugs (PWID) however have not been investigated despite the high epidemiological impact of CRF33_01B in the region. We update the most recent molecular epidemiology of HIV-1 among PWIDs recruited in Malaysia between 2010 and 2011 by population sequencing and phylogenetic analysis of 128 gag-pol sequences. HIV-1 CRF33_01B was circulating among 71% of PWIDs whilst a lower prevalence of other previously dominant HIV-1 genotypes [subtype B′ (11%) and CRF01_AE (5%)] and CRF01_AE/B′ unique recombinants (13%) were detected, indicating a significant shift in genotype replacement in this population. Three clusters of CRF01_AE/B′ recombinants displaying divergent yet phylogenetically-related mosaic genomes to CRF33_01B were identified and characterized, suggestive of an abrupt emergence of multiple novel CRF clades. Using rigorous maximum likelihood approach and the Bayesian Markov chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) sampling of CRF33_01Bpol sequences to elucidate the past population dynamics, we found that the founder lineages of CRF33_01B were likely to have first emerged among PWIDs in the early 1990 s before spreading exponentially to various high and low-risk populations (including children who acquired infections from their mothers) and later on became endemic around the early 2000 s. Taken together, our findings provide notable genetic evidence indicating the widespread expansion of CRF33_01B among PWIDs and into the general population. The emergence of numerous previously unknown recombinant clades highlights the escalating genetic complexity of HIV-1 in the Southeast Asian region.
PMCID: PMC3646884  PMID: 23667490
18.  Characterization and frequency of a newly identified HIV-1 BF1 intersubtype circulating recombinant form in São Paulo, Brazil 
Virology Journal  2010;7:74.
HIV circulating recombinant forms (CRFs) play an important role in the global and regional HIV epidemics, particularly in regions where multiple subtypes are circulating. To date, several (>40) CRFs are recognized worldwide with five currently circulating in Brazil. Here, we report the characterization of near full-length genome sequences (NFLG) of six phylogenetically related HIV-1 BF1 intersubtype recombinants (five from this study and one from other published sequences) representing CRF46_BF1.
Initially, we selected 36 samples from 888 adult patients residing in São Paulo who had previously been diagnosed as being infected with subclade F1 based on pol subgenomic fragment sequencing. Proviral DNA integrated in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) was amplified from the purified genomic DNA of all 36-blood samples by five overlapping PCR fragments followed by direct sequencing. Sequence data were obtained from the five fragments that showed identical genomic structure and phylogenetic trees were constructed and compared with previously published sequences. Genuine subclade F1 sequences and any other sequences that exhibited unique mosaic structures were omitted from further analysis
Of the 36 samples analyzed, only six sequences, inferred from the pol region as subclade F1, displayed BF1 identical mosaic genomes with a single intersubtype breakpoint identified at the nef-U3 overlap (HXB2 position 9347-9365; LTR region). Five of these isolates formed a rigid cluster in phylogentic trees from different subclade F1 fragment regions, which we can now designate as CRF46_BF1. According to our estimate, the new CRF accounts for 0.56% of the HIV-1 circulating strains in São Paulo. Comparison with previously published sequences revealed an additional five isolates that share an identical mosaic structure with those reported in our study. Despite sharing a similar recombinant structure, only one sequence appeared to originate from the same CRF46_BF1 ancestor.
We identified a new circulating recombinant form with a single intersubtype breakpoint identified at the nef-LTR U3 overlap and designated CRF46_BF1. Given the biological importance of the LTR U3 region, intersubtype recombination in this region could play an important role in HIV evolution with critical consequences for the development of efficient genetic vaccines.
PMCID: PMC2859377  PMID: 20398371
19.  Genetic diversity and drug resistance among newly diagnosed and antiretroviral treatment-naive HIV-infected individuals in western Yunnan: a hot area of viral recombination in China 
BMC Infectious Diseases  2012;12:382.
The emergence of an HIV-1 epidemic in China was first recognized in Dehong, western Yunnan. Due to its geographic location, Dehong contributed greatly in bridging HIV-1 epidemics in Southeast Asia and China through drug trafficking and injection drug use; and also extensively to the HIV genetic diversity in Yunnan and China. We attempt to monitor HIV-1 in this area by studying the HIV-1 genetic distribution and transmitted drug resistance (TDR) in various at-risk populations.
Blood samples from a total of 320 newly HIV-1 diagnosed individuals, who were antiretroviral therapy (ART)-naive, were collected from January 2009 to December 2010 in 2 counties in Dehong. HIV-1 subtypes and pol gene drug resistance (DR) mutations were genotyped.
Among 299 pol sequences successfully genotyped (93.4%), subtype C accounted for 43.1% (n=129), unique recombinant forms (URFs) for 18.4% (n=55), CRF01_AE for 17.7% (n=54), B for 10.7% (n=32), CRF08_BC for 8.4% (n=25) and CRF07_BC for 1.7% (n=5). Subtype distribution in patients infected by different transmission routes varied. In contract to the previous finding of CRF01_AE predominance in 2002-2006, subtype C predominated in both injecting drug users (IDUs) and heterosexually transmitted populations in this study. Furthermore, we found a high level of BC, CRF01_AE/C and CRF01_AE/B/C recombinants suggesting the presence of active viral recombination in the area. TDR associated mutations were identified in 4.3% (n=13) individuals. A total of 1.3% of DR were related to protease inhibitors (PIs), including I85IV, M46I and L90M; 0.3% to nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs), including M184I; and 2.7% to non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NNRTIs), including K103N/S, Y181C, K101E and G190A.
Our work revealed diverse HIV-1 subtype distributions and intersubtype recombinations. We also identified a low but significant TDR mutation rate among ART-naive patients. These findings enhance our understanding of HIV-1 evolution and are valuable for the development and implementation of a comprehensive public health approach to HIV-1 DR prevention and treatment in the region.
PMCID: PMC3552723  PMID: 23270497
HIV-1; Genetic diversity; Drug resistance; Injecting drug use; Dehong; China
20.  Temporal and Spatial Dynamics of Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 Circulating Recombinant Forms 08_BC and 07_BC in Asia▿ † 
Journal of Virology  2008;82(18):9206-9215.
Human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) CRF08_BC and CRF07_BC are two major recombinants descended from subtypes B′ and C. Despite their massive epidemic impact in China, their migration patterns and divergence times remain unknown. Phylogenetic and population genetic analyses were performed on 228 HIV-1 sequences representing CRF08_BC, CRF07_BC, and subtype C strains from different locations across China, India, and Myanmar. Genome-specific rates of evolution and divergence times were estimated using a Bayesian Markov chain Monte Carlo framework under various evolutionary models. CRF08_BC originated in 1990.3 (95% credible region [CR], 1988.6 to 1991.9) in Yunnan province before spreading to Guangxi (south) and Liaoning (northeast) around 1995. Inside Guangxi region, the eastward expansion of CRF08_BC continued from Baise city (west) to Binyang (central) between 1997 and 1998 and later spread into Pingxiang around 1999 in the south, mainly through injecting drug users. Additionally, CRF07_BC diverged from its common ancestor in 1993.3 (95% CR, 1991.2 to 1995.2) before crossing the border into southern Taiwan in late 1990s. Phylogenetic analysis indicates that both CRF08_BC and CRF07_BC can trace their origins to Yunnan. The parental Indian subtype C lineage likely entered China around 1981.2 (95% CR, 1976.7 to 1985.9). Using a multiple unlinked locus model, we also showed that the dates of divergence calculated in this study may not be significantly affected by intrasubtype recombination among different lineages. This is the first phylodynamic study depicting the spatiotemporal dynamics of HIV/AIDS in East Asia.
PMCID: PMC2546895  PMID: 18596096
21.  Cross-Clade Recognition of HIV-1 CAp24 by CD4+ T Cells in HIV-1-Infected Individuals in Burkina Faso and Germany 
The Open AIDS Journal  2009;3:4-7.
The presence of antigen-specific cellular immune responses may be an indicator of long-term asymptomatic HIV-1-disease. The detection of cellular immune responses to infection with different subtypes of HIV-1 may be hampered by genetic differences of immunodominant antigens such as the capsid protein CAp24. In Nouna, Burkina Faso, HIV-1 circulating recombinant forms CRF02_AG and CRF06_cpx are the 2 major strains detectable in HIV-1-infected individuals, while subtype B strains prevail in Europe and North America. Amino acid sequences of CAp24 were assessed in blood samples from 10 HIV-1-infected patients in Nouna, Burkina Faso. Production of interferon-gamma (IFN-γ) in peripheral blood CD4+ lymphocytes in response to recombinant HIV-1 proteins derived from clade B (including CAp24NL4-3) was measured using a modified flow-cytometry-based whole blood short term activation assay (FASTimmune, BDBiosciences). IFN-γ production following stimulation with a whole length CAp24 protein derived from clade B (CAp24NL4-3) was additionally quantified in comparison to a CAp24 protein derived from CRF02_AG (CAp24BD6-15) in 16 HIV-1-infected patients in Heidelberg, Germany. Amino acid sequence identity of CAp24 obtained from patients in Nouna ranged between 86 and 89% when compared to the clade B CAp24NL4-3 consensus sequence, between 90 and 95% when compared to the circulating recombinant form CRF06_CPX consensus sequence, and between 92 and 96% when compared to the CAp24BD6-15 consensus sequence. Significant numbers of HIV-1-specific CD4+ lymphocytes producing IFN-γ were detected in 4 of 10 HIV-1-infected patients. In 7 of 16 patients in Heidelberg, recombinant CAp24BD6-15 stimulated IFN-γ-production in CD4+ lymphocytes to a similar extent as the clade B-derived CAp24NL4-3. Thus, antigen-specific CD4+ lymphocytes from both West African and European patients infected with different strains of HIV-1 show relevant cross-clade recognition of HIV-1 CAp24 in a flow-cytometry-based whole blood short term activation assay.
PMCID: PMC2701271  PMID: 19554213
22.  HIV-1 recombinants with multiple parental strains in low-prevalence, remote regions of Cameroon: Evolutionary relics? 
Retrovirology  2010;7:39.
The HIV pandemic disseminated globally from Central West Africa, beginning in the second half of the twentieth century. To elucidate the virologic origins of the pandemic, a cross-sectional study was conducted of the genetic diversity of HIV-1 strains in villagers in 14 remote locations in Cameroon and in hospitalized and STI patients. DNA extracted from PBMC was PCR amplified from HIV(+) subjects. Partial pol amplicons (N = 164) and nearly full virus genomes (N = 78) were sequenced. Among the 3956 rural villagers studied, the prevalence of HIV infection was 4.9%; among the hospitalized and clinic patients, it was 8.6%.
Virus genotypes fell into two distinctive groups. A majority of the genotyped strains (109/164) were the circulating recombinant form (CRF) known to be endemic in West Africa and Central West Africa, CRF02_AG. The second most common genetic form (9/164) was the recently described CRF22_01A1, and the rest were a collection of 4 different subtypes (A2, D, F2, G) and 6 different CRFs (-01, -11, -13, -18, -25, -37). Remarkably, 10.4% of HIV-1 genomes detected (17/164) were heretofore undescribed unique recombinant forms (URF) present in only a single person. Nearly full genome sequencing was completed for 78 of the viruses of interest. HIV genetic diversity was commonplace in rural villages: 12 villages each had at least one newly detected URF, and 9 villages had two or more.
These results show that while CRF02_AG dominated the HIV strains in the rural villages, the remainder of the viruses had tremendous genetic diversity. Between the trans-species transmission of SIVcpz and the dispersal of pandemic HIV-1, there was a time when we hypothesize that nascent HIV-1 was spreading, but only to a limited extent, recombining with other local HIV-1, creating a large variety of recombinants. When one of those recombinants began to spread widely (i.e. became epidemic), it was recognized as a subtype. We hypothesize that the viruses in these remote Cameroon villages may represent that pre-epidemic stage of viral evolution.
PMCID: PMC2879232  PMID: 20426823
23.  Episodic Sexual Transmission of HIV Revealed by Molecular Phylodynamics 
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(3):e50.
The structure of sexual contact networks plays a key role in the epidemiology of sexually transmitted infections, and their reconstruction from interview data has provided valuable insights into the spread of infection. For HIV, the long period of infectivity has made the interpretation of contact networks more difficult, and major discrepancies have been observed between the contact network and the transmission network revealed by viral phylogenetics. The high rate of HIV evolution in principle allows for detailed reconstruction of links between virus from different individuals, but often sampling has been too sparse to describe the structure of the transmission network. The aim of this study was to analyze a high-density sample of an HIV-infected population using recently developed techniques in phylogenetics to infer the short-term dynamics of the epidemic among men who have sex with men (MSM).
Methods and Findings
Sequences of the protease and reverse transcriptase coding regions from 2,126 patients, predominantly MSM, from London were compared: 402 of these showed a close match to at least one other subtype B sequence. Nine large clusters were identified on the basis of genetic distance; all were confirmed by Bayesian Monte Carlo Markov chain (MCMC) phylogenetic analysis. Overall, 25% of individuals with a close match with one sequence are linked to 10 or more others. Dated phylogenies of the clusters using a relaxed clock indicated that 65% of the transmissions within clusters took place between 1995 and 2000, and 25% occurred within 6 mo after infection. The likelihood that not all members of the clusters have been identified renders the latter observation conservative.
Reconstruction of the HIV transmission network using a dated phylogeny approach has revealed the HIV epidemic among MSM in London to have been episodic, with evidence of multiple clusters of transmissions dating to the late 1990s, a period when HIV prevalence is known to have doubled in this population. The quantitative description of the transmission dynamics among MSM will be important for parameterization of epidemiological models and in designing intervention strategies.
Using viral genotype data from HIV drug resistance testing at a London clinic, Andrew Leigh Brown and colleagues derive the structure of the transmission network through phylogenetic analysis.
Editors' Summary
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the cause of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), is mainly spread through unprotected sex with an infected partner. Like other sexually transmitted diseases, HIV/AIDS spreads through networks of sexual contacts. The characteristics of these complex networks (which include people who have serial sexual relationships with single partners and people who have concurrent sexual relationships with several partners) affect how quickly diseases spread in the short term and how common the disease is in the long term. For many sexually transmitted diseases, sexual contact networks can be reconstructed from interview data. The information gained in this way can be used for partner notification so that transmitters of the disease and people who may have been unknowingly infected can be identified, treated, and advised about disease prevention. It can also be used to develop effective community-based prevention strategies.
Why Was This Study Done?
Although sexual contact networks have provided valuable information about the spread of many sexually transmitted diseases, they cannot easily be used to understand HIV transmission patterns. This is because the period of infectivity with HIV is long and the risk of infection from a single sexual contact with an infected person is low. Another way to understand the spread of HIV is through phylogenetics, which examines the genetic relatedness of viruses obtained from different individuals. Frequent small changes in the genetic blueprint of HIV allow the virus to avoid the human immune response and to become resistant to antiretroviral drugs. In this study, the researchers use recently developed analytical methods, viral sequences from a large proportion of a specific HIV-infected population, and information on when each sample was taken, to learn about transmission of HIV/AIDS in London among men who have sex with men (MSM; a term that encompasses gay, bisexual, and transgendered men and heterosexual men who sometimes have sex with men). This new approach, which combines information on viral genetic variation and viral population dynamics, is called “molecular phylodynamics.”
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers compared the sequences of the genes encoding the HIV-1 protease and reverse transcriptase from more than 2,000 patients, mainly MSM, attending a large London HIV clinic between 1997 and 2003. 402 of these sequences closely matched at least one other subtype B sequence (the HIV/AIDS epidemic among MSM in the UK primarily involves HIV subtype B). Further analysis showed that the patients from whom this subset of sequences came formed six clusters of ten or more individuals, as well as many smaller clusters, based on the genetic relatedness of their HIV viruses. The researchers then used information on the date when each sample was collected and a “relaxed clock” approach (which accounts for the possibility that different sequences evolve at different rates) to determine dated phylogenies (patterns of genetic relatedness that indicate when gene sequences change) for the clusters. These phylogenies indicated that at least in one in four transmissions between the individuals in the large clusters occurred within 6 months of infection, and that most of the transmissions within each cluster occurred over periods of 3–4 years during the late 1990s.
What Do These Findings Mean?
This phylodynamic reconstruction of the HIV transmission network among MSM in a London clinic indicates that the HIV epidemic in this population has been episodic with multiple clusters of transmission occurring during the late 1990s, a time when the number of HIV infections in this population doubled. It also suggests that transmission of the virus during the early stages of HIV infection is likely to be an important driver of the epidemic. Whether these results apply more generally to the MSM population at risk for transmitting or acquiring HIV depends on whether the patients in this study are representative of that group. Additional studies are needed to determine this, but if the patterns revealed here are generalizable, then this quantitative description of HIV transmission dynamics should help in the design of strategies to strengthen HIV prevention among MSM.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
Read a related PLoS Medicine Perspective article
Information is available from the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases on HIV infection and AIDS
HIV InSite has comprehensive information on all aspects of HIV/AIDS, including a list of organizations that provide information for gay men and MSM
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information on HIV/AIDS and on HIV/AIDS among MSM (in English and Spanish)
Information is available from Avert, an international AIDS charity, on HIV, AIDS, and men who have sex with men
The Center for AIDS Prevention Studies (University of California, San Francisco) provides information on sexual networks and HIV prevention
The US National Center for Biotechnology Information provides a science primer on molecular phylogenetics
UK Collaborative Group on HIV Drug Resistance maintains a database of resistance tests
HIV i-Base offers HIV treatment information for health-care professionals and HIV-positive people
The NIH-funded HIV Sequence Database contains data on genetic sequences, resistance, immunology, and vaccine trials
PMCID: PMC2267814  PMID: 18351795
24.  Optimization of a Low Cost and Broadly Sensitive Genotyping Assay for HIV-1 Drug Resistance Surveillance and Monitoring in Resource-Limited Settings 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(11):e28184.
Commercially available HIV-1 drug resistance (HIVDR) genotyping assays are expensive and have limitations in detecting non-B subtypes and circulating recombinant forms that are co-circulating in resource-limited settings (RLS). This study aimed to optimize a low cost and broadly sensitive in-house assay in detecting HIVDR mutations in the protease (PR) and reverse transcriptase (RT) regions of pol gene. The overall plasma genotyping sensitivity was 95.8% (N = 96). Compared to the original in-house assay and two commercially available genotyping systems, TRUGENE® and ViroSeq®, the optimized in-house assay showed a nucleotide sequence concordance of 99.3%, 99.6% and 99.1%, respectively. The optimized in-house assay was more sensitive in detecting mixture bases than the original in-house (N = 87, P<0.001) and TRUGENE® and ViroSeq® assays. When the optimized in-house assay was applied to genotype samples collected for HIVDR surveys (N = 230), all 72 (100%) plasma and 69 (95.8%) of the matched dried blood spots (DBS) in the Vietnam transmitted HIVDR survey were genotyped and nucleotide sequence concordance was 98.8%; Testing of treatment-experienced patient plasmas with viral load (VL) ≥ and <3 log10 copies/ml from the Nigeria and Malawi surveys yielded 100% (N = 46) and 78.6% (N = 14) genotyping rates, respectively. Furthermore, all 18 matched DBS stored at room temperature from the Nigeria survey were genotyped. Phylogenetic analysis of the 236 sequences revealed that 43.6% were CRF01_AE, 25.9% subtype C, 13.1% CRF02_AG, 5.1% subtype G, 4.2% subtype B, 2.5% subtype A, 2.1% each subtype F and unclassifiable, 0.4% each CRF06_CPX, CRF07_BC and CRF09_CPX.
The optimized in-house assay is broadly sensitive in genotyping HIV-1 group M viral strains and more sensitive than the original in-house, TRUGENE® and ViroSeq® in detecting mixed viral populations. The broad sensitivity and substantial reagent cost saving make this assay more accessible for RLS where HIVDR surveillance is recommended to minimize the development and transmission of HIVDR.
PMCID: PMC3223235  PMID: 22132237
25.  HIV-1 integrase resistance among antiretroviral treatment naive and experienced patients from Northwestern Poland 
BMC Infectious Diseases  2012;12:368.
HIV integrase inhibitor use is limited by low genetic barrier to resistance and possible cross-resistance among representatives of this class of antiretrovirals. The aim of this study was to analyse integrase sequence variability among antiretroviral treatment naive and experienced patients with no prior integrase inhibitor (InI) exposure and investigate development of the InI drug resistance mutations following the virologic failure of the raltegravir containing regimen.
Sequencing of HIV-1 integrase region from plasma samples of 80 integrase treatment naive patients and serial samples from 12 patients with observed virologic failure on raltegravir containing treatment whenever plasma vireamia exceeded >50 copies/ml was performed. Drug resistance mutations were called with Stanford DB database and grouped into major and minor variants. For subtyping bootstrapped phylogenetic analysis was used; Bayesian Monte Carlo Marcov Chain (MCMC) model was implemented to infer on the phylogenetic relationships between the serial sequences from patients failing on raltegravir.
Majority of the integrase region sequences were classified as subtype B; the remaining ones being subtype D, C, G, as well as CRF01_AE , CRF02_AG and CRF13_cpx recombinants. No major integrase drug resistance mutations have been observed in InI-treatment naive patients. In 30 (38.5%) cases polymorphic variation with predominance of the E157Q mutation was observed. This mutation was more common among subtype B (26 cases, 54.2%) than non-B sequences (5 cases, 16.7%), p=0.00099, OR: 5.91 (95% CI:1.77-22.63)]. Other variants included L68V, L74IL, T97A, E138D, V151I, R263K. Among 12 (26.1%) raltegravir treated patients treatment failure was observed; major InI drug resistance mutations (G140S, Q148H and N155H, V151I, E92EQ, V151I, G163R) were noted in four of these cases (8.3% of the total InI-treated patients). Time to the development of drug resistance ranged from 2.6 to 16.3 months with mean increase of HIV viral load of 4.34 (95% CI:1.86-6.84) log HIV-RNA copies/ml at the time of emergence of the major mutations. Baseline polymorphisms, including E157Q were not associated with the virologic failure on raltegravir.
In InI treatment naive patients polymorphic integrase sequence variation was common, with no major resistance mutants. In the treatment failing patients selection of drug resistance occurred rapidly and followed the typical drug resistance pathways. Preexisting integrase polymorphisms were not associated with the treatment failure.
PMCID: PMC3547692  PMID: 23259737
HIV-1; Integrase inhibitors; Raltegravir; Antiretroviral treatment failure; Drug resistance mutations

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