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1.  Phylodynamic Profile of HIV-1 Subtype B, CRF01_AE and the Recently Emerging CRF51_01B among Men Who Have Sex with Men (MSM) in Singapore 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e80884.
HIV-1 subtype B and CRF01_AE are the predominant infecting subtypes among men who have sex with men (MSM) in Singapore. The genetic history, population dynamics and pattern of transmission networks of these genotypes remain largely unknown. We delineated the phylodynamic profiles of HIV-1 subtype B, CRF01_AE and the recently characterized CRF51_01B strains circulating among the MSM population in Singapore. A total of 105 (49.5%) newly-diagnosed treatment-naïve MSM were recruited between February 2008 and August 2009. Phylogenetic reconstructions of the protease gene (HXB2: 2239 – 2629), gp120 (HXB2: 6942 – 7577) and gp41 (HXB2: 7803 – 8276) of the env gene uncovered five monophyletic transmission networks (two each within subtype B and CRF01_AE and one within CRF51_01B lineages) of different sizes (involving 3 – 23 MSM subjects, supported by posterior probability measure of 1.0). Bayesian coalescent analysis estimated that the emergence and dissemination of multiple sub-epidemic networks occurred between 1995 and 2005, driven largely by subtype B and later followed by CRF01_AE. Exponential increase in effective population size for both subtype B and CRF01_AE occurred between 2002 to 2007 and 2005 to 2007, respectively. Genealogical estimates suggested that the novel CRF51_01B lineages were probably generated through series of recombination events involving CRF01_AE and multiple subtype B ancestors. Our study provides the first insight on the phylodynamic profiles of HIV-1 subtype B, CRF01_AE and CRF51_01B viral strains circulating among MSM in Singapore.
PMCID: PMC3846621  PMID: 24312505
2.  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
3.  Cross-Border Sexual Transmission of the Newly Emerging HIV-1 Clade CRF51_01B 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(10):e111236.
A novel HIV-1 recombinant clade (CRF51_01B) was recently identified among men who have sex with men (MSM) in Singapore. As cases of sexually transmitted HIV-1 infection increase concurrently in two socioeconomically intimate countries such as Malaysia and Singapore, cross transmission of HIV-1 between said countries is highly probable. In order to investigate the timeline for the emergence of HIV-1 CRF51_01B in Singapore and its possible introduction into Malaysia, 595 HIV-positive subjects recruited in Kuala Lumpur from 2008 to 2012 were screened. Phylogenetic relationship of 485 amplified polymerase gene sequences was determined through neighbour-joining method. Next, near-full length sequences were amplified for genomic sequences inferred to be CRF51_01B and subjected to further analysis implemented through Bayesian Markov chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) sampling and maximum likelihood methods. Based on the near full length genomes, two isolates formed a phylogenetic cluster with CRF51_01B sequences of Singapore origin, sharing identical recombination structure. Spatial and temporal information from Bayesian MCMC coalescent and maximum likelihood analysis of the protease, gp120 and gp41 genes suggest that Singapore is probably the country of origin of CRF51_01B (as early as in the mid-1990s) and featured a Malaysian who acquired the infection through heterosexual contact as host for its ancestral lineages. CRF51_01B then spread rapidly among the MSM in Singapore and Malaysia. Although the importation of CRF51_01B from Singapore to Malaysia is supported by coalescence analysis, the narrow timeframe of the transmission event indicates a closely linked epidemic. Discrepancies in the estimated divergence times suggest that CRF51_01B may have arisen through multiple recombination events from more than one parental lineage. We report the cross transmission of a novel CRF51_01B lineage between countries that involved different sexual risk groups. Understanding the cross-border transmission of HIV-1 involving sexual networks is crucial for effective intervention strategies in the region.
PMCID: PMC4207770  PMID: 25340817
4.  Emerging Variability in HIV-1 Genetics among Recently Infected Individuals in Yunnan, China 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(3):e60101.
Yunnan has the longest endured Human Immunodeficiency Virus-1 (HIV-1) epidemic in China, and the genetic diversity of HIV-1 constitutes an essential characteristic of molecular epidemiology in this region. To obtain a more comprehensive picture of the dynamic changes in Yunnan’s HIV-1 epidemic, a cross-sectional molecular epidemiological investigation was carried out among recently infected individuals.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We sequenced partial gag (HXB2∶781–1861) and env (HXB2∶7002–7541) genes from 308 plasma samples of recently infected patients. With phylogenetic analysis, 130 specimens generated interpretable genotyping data. We found that the circulating genotypes included: CRF08_BC (40.8%), unique recombinant forms (URFs, 27.7%), CRF01_AE (18.5%), CRF07_BC (9.2%), subtype B (2.3%) and C (1.5%). CRF08_BC was the most common genotype, and was predominant in both intravenous drug users (IDUs) and heterosexually transmitted populations. CRF08_BC and CRF07_BC still predominated in eastern Yunnan, but CRF08_BC showed increasing prevalence in western Yunnan. Strikingly, the URFs raised dramatically in most regions of Yunnan. Seven different types of URFs were detected from 12 prefectures, suggesting that complicated and frequent recombination is a salient feature of Yunnan’s HIV-1 epidemic. Among URFs, two BC clusters with distinctive recombination patterns might be potential new CRF_BCs. CRF01_AE was no longer confined to the prefectures bordering Myanmar, and had spread to the eastern part of Yunnan, especially the capital city of Kunming, with a large number of infections in the transient population. The ratios of the main genotypes showed no statistical differences between infected IDUs and heterosexually transmitted infections.
The changing patterns of the dominant HIV-1 genotypes in Yunnan indicate the complex evolving dynamic nature of the epidemic. Understanding new trends in molecular epidemiology of HIV-1 infection is critical for adjusting current prevention strategies and vaccine development in Yunnan.
PMCID: PMC3608604  PMID: 23555898
5.  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
6.  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
7.  Novel HIV-1 Recombinants Spreading across Multiple Risk Groups in the United Kingdom: The Identification and Phylogeography of Circulating Recombinant Form (CRF) 50_A1D 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e83337.
An increase in non-B HIV-1 infections among men who have sex with men (MSM) in the United Kingdom (UK) has created opportunities for novel recombinants to arise and become established. We used molecular mapping to characterize the importance of such recombinants to the UK HIV epidemic, in order to gain insights into transmission dynamics that can inform control strategies.
Methods and Results
A total of 55,556 pol (reverse transcriptase and protease) sequences in the UK HIV Drug Resistance Database were analyzed using Subtype Classification Using Evolutionary Algorithms (SCUEAL). Overall 72 patients shared the same A1/D recombination breakpoint in pol, comprising predominantly MSM but also heterosexuals and injecting drug users (IDUs). In six MSM, full-length single genome amplification of plasma HIV-1 RNA was performed in order to characterize the A1/D recombinant. Subtypes and recombination breakpoints were identified using sliding window and jumping profile hidden markov model approaches. Global maximum likelihood trees of gag, pol and env genes were drawn using FastTree version 2.1. Five of the six strains showed the same novel A1/D recombinant (8 breakpoints), which has been classified as CRF50_A1D. The sixth strain showed a complex CRF50_A1D/B/U structure. Divergence dates and phylogeographic inferences were determined using Bayesian Evolutionary Analysis using Sampling Trees (BEAST). This estimated that CRF50_A1D emerged in the UK around 1992 in MSM, with subsequent transmissions to heterosexuals and IDUs. Analysis of CRF50_A1D/B/U demonstrated that around the year 2000 CRF50_A1D underwent recombination with a subtype B strain.
We report the identification of CRF50_A1D, a novel circulating recombinant that emerged in UK MSM around 1992, with subsequent onward transmission to heterosexuals and IDUs, and more recent recombination with subtype B. These findings highlight the changing dynamics of HIV transmission in the UK and the converging of the two previously distinct MSM and heterosexual epidemics.
PMCID: PMC3893077  PMID: 24454702
8.  Global trends in molecular epidemiology of HIV-1 during 2000–2007 
AIDS (London, England)  2011;25(5):679-689.
To estimate the global and regional distribution of HIV-1 subtypes and recombinants between 2000 and 2007.
Country-specific HIV-1 molecular epidemiology data were combined with estimates of the number of HIV-infected people in each country.
Cross-sectional HIV-1 subtyping data were collected from 65913 samples in 109 countries between 2000 and 2007. The distribution of HIV-1 subtypes in individual countries was weighted according to the number of HIV-infected people in each country to generate estimates of regional and global HIV-1 subtype distribution for the periods 2000–2003 and 2004–2007.
Analysis of the global distribution of HIV-1 subtypes and recombinants in the two time periods indicated a broadly stable distribution of HIV-1 subtypes worldwide with a notable increase in the proportion of circulating recombinant forms (CRFs), a decrease in unique recombinant forms (URFs), and an overall increase in recombinants. In 2004–2007, subtype C accounted for nearly half (48%) of all global infections, followed by subtypes A (12%) and B (11%), CRF02_AG (8%), CRF01_AE (5%), subtype G (5%) and D(2%). Subtypes F, H, J and K together cause fewer than 1% of infections worldwide. Other CRFs and URFs are each responsible for 4% of global infections, bringing the combined total of worldwide CRFs to 16% and all recombinants (CRFs plus URFs) to 20%.
The global and regional distributions of individual subtypes and recombinants are broadly stable, although CRFs may play an increasing role in the HIV pandemic. The global diversity of HIV-1 poses a formidable challenge to HIV vaccine development.
PMCID: PMC3755761  PMID: 21297424
HIV; subtype; Circulating Recombinant Form (CRF); recombinant; molecular epidemiology; vaccine
9.  Identification of a Novel HIV Type 1 Circulating Recombinant Form (CRF52_01B) in Southeast Asia 
AIDS Research and Human Retroviruses  2012;28(10):1357-1361.
Thirty HIV-1 URF_01AE/ B′ complete or nearly full-length genome sequences sampled within Southeast Asia were obtained from the Los Alamos HIV Sequence Database. Phylogenetic and recombinant analyses revealed that three sequences indeed displayed the identical recombinant structure. Of note, the three subjects, harboring novel CRF01_AE/B recombinants, did not have apparent epidemiological linkage. They fulfilled the criteria for the designation of a new circulating recombinant form (CRF) and constituted the 52nd CRF identified in the worldwide HIV-1 pandemic. In this chimera, two short subtype B segments were inserted into a backbone of CRF_01AE. The breakpoints corresponded to HXB2 nucleotide positions 2930, 3251, 8521, and 9004 approximately. This CRF is the first one identified by neatening and analyzing the sequences already presented in the Los Alamos HIV Sequence Database. This indicates that we should pay attention not only to explicit subtype sequences but also to those classified as a unique recombinant form (URF) so far.
PMCID: PMC3448130  PMID: 22269007
10.  Two N-Linked Glycosylation Sites in the V2 and C2 Regions of Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 CRF01_AE Envelope Glycoprotein gp120 Regulate Viral Neutralization Susceptibility to the Human Monoclonal Antibody Specific for the CD4 Binding Domain▿  
Journal of Virology  2010;84(9):4311-4320.
A recombinant human monoclonal antibody, IgG1 b12 (b12), recognizes a conformational epitope on human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) envelope glycoprotein (Env) gp120 that overlaps the CD4 binding domain. Although b12 is able to broadly neutralize HIV-1 subtype B, C, and D viruses, many HIV-1 CRF01_AE viruses are resistant to b12-mediated neutralization. In this report, we examined the molecular mechanisms underlying the low neutralization susceptibility of CRF01_AE viruses to b12, using recently established CRF01_AE Env recombinant viruses. Our results showed that two potential N-linked glycosylation (PNLG) sites in the V2 and C2 regions of Env gp120 played an important role in regulating the susceptibility of CRF01_AE Env to b12. The locations of these PNLG sites correspond to amino acid positions 186 and 197 in HXB2 Env gp120; thus, they are designated N186 and N197 in this study. Removal of N186 significantly conferred the b12 susceptibility of 2 resistant CRF01_AE Env clones, 65CC4 and 107CC2, while the introduction of N186 reduced the b12 susceptibility of a susceptible CRF01_AE Env clone, 65CC1. In addition, removal of both N186 and N197 conferred the b12 susceptibility of 3 resistant CRF01_AE Env clones, 45PB1, 62PL1, and 101PL1, whereas the removal of either N186 or N197 was not sufficient to confer the b12 susceptibility of these CRF01_AE Env clones. Finally, removal of N197 conferred the b12 susceptibility of 2 resistant CRF01_AE Env clones lacking N186, 55PL1 and 102CC2. Taken together, we propose that two PNLG sites, N186 and N197, in Env gp120 are important determinants of the b12 resistance of CRF01_AE viruses.
PMCID: PMC2863754  PMID: 20164234
11.  Near Full-Length Genome Sequence of a Novel HIV Type 1 Second-Generation Recombinant Form (CRF01_AE/CRF07_BC) Identified Among Men Who Have Sex with Men in Jilin, China 
AIDS Research and Human Retroviruses  2013;29(12):1604-1608.
We report here a novel HIV-1 second-generation recombinant form (CRF01_AE/CRF07_BC) composed of CRF01_AE and CRF07_BC, identified among men who have sex with men (MSM) in Jilin, with four breakpoints observed in the pol, vif, and vpr genes. The CRF01_AE regions of the recombinant were clustered with the CRF01_AE lineage, which is mainly circulating among MSM in northern China, with the support of 100% bootstrap value, indicating that the parental origin of the CRF01_AE regions was from MSM, in which recombination events may be more likely to occur. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first detection of a novel HIV-1 second-generation recombinant form (CRF01AE/CRF07_BC) in Jilin, which indicates active transmission networks of HIV-1 infection among MSM in the region. Therefore, it is necessary to continue monitoring the molecular epidemiology of HIV-1 among MSM in Jilin to obtain a better understanding of the transmission and potential public health impact of HIV-1 among MSM in the region.
PMCID: PMC3848684  PMID: 23809010
12.  Identification of New CRF51_01B in Singapore Using Full Genome Analysis of Three HIV Type 1 Isolates 
A recent HIV-1 molecular epidemiology survey in Singapore identified a novel CRF01_AE/B recombinant form, which accounted for 13 (11.9%) of 109 patient samples. Peripheral blood mononuclear cell DNA from three of these 13 patients was used to generate near full-length sequences to characterize the novel CRF01_AE/B recombinant form. The three isolates had a recombinant structure composed of CRF01_AE and subtype B, and shared identical breakpoints. As the three patients were not epidemiologically linked, this recombinant form has been designated CRF51_01B. Identification of the novel recombinant forms indicates ongoing active HIV-1 transmission in Singapore.
PMCID: PMC3332370  PMID: 21902588
13.  Evolving Molecular Epidemiological Profile of Human Immunodeficiency Virus 1 in the Southwest Border of China 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(9):e107578.
We have previously reported in Xishuangbanna (Banna) Dai Autonomous Prefecture, a well-developed tourist destination in the southwest border of China, that HIV-1 transmitted dominantly through heterosexual contact with less divergent genotypes and few drug resistant mutations [1]. Due to the rapid increase of newly diagnosed HIV-1 cases per year in Banna in recent years, it’s important to evaluate the evolution of HIV-1 molecular epidemiology for the better understanding of ongoing HIV-1 outbreak in this region.
Methodology/Principal Findings
By sequencing of HIV-1 pol genes and phylogenetic analysis, we conducted a molecular epidemiologic study in 352 HIV-1-seropositive highly active antiretroviral treatment (HAART)-naïve individuals newly diagnosed at the Banna Center for Disease Control and Prevention between 2009 and 2011. Of 283 samples (84.1% taken from heterosexually acquired adults, 10.6% from needle-sharing drug users, 2.8% from men who have sex with men, 0.4% from children born from HIV-1-infected mothers, and 2.1% remained unknown) with successful sequencing for pol gene, we identified 108 (38.2%) HIV-1 subtype CRF08_BC, 101 (35.7%) CRF01_AE, 49 (17.3%) CRF07_BC, 5 (1.8%) C/CRF57_BC, 3 (1.1%) B’, 1 (0.4%) B/CRF51_01B, and 16 (5.7%) unique recombinants forms. Among these infected individuals, 104 (36.7%) cases showed drug resistant or resistance-relevant mutations, and 4 of them conferring high-level resistance to 3TC/FTC, EFV/NVP or NFV. Phylogenetic analysis revealed 21 clusters (2–7 sequences) with only 21.2% (60/283) sequences involved.
In contrast to our previous findings, CRF08_BC, replaced CRF01_AE, became the dominant genotype of HIV-1 in Banna prefecture. The viral strains with drug resistance mutations were detected frequently in newly diagnosed HIV-1-infected individuals in this region.
PMCID: PMC4160289  PMID: 25207977
14.  Identification and Characterization of a Novel HIV-1 Circulating Recombinant Form (CRF59_01B) Identified among Men-Who-Have-Sex-with-Men in China 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(6):e99693.
The HIV-1 epidemic among men-who-have-sex-with-men (MSM) continues to expand in China. A large-scale national survey we conducted on HIV-1 strains among MSM in 11 provinces in China from 2008 to 2013 (n = 920) identified a novel transmission cluster consisting of six strains (0.7%) that belonged to a new circulating recombinant form (designated CRF59_01B). CRF59_01B contains two subtype B segments of U.S.-European origin (in the pol and vpu-env regions) in a CRF01_AE backbone. CRF59_01B is the second CRF (after CRF55_01B) circulating primarily among MSM in China. CRF59_01B occurs at a low frequency (less than 1%), but it was detected in four different provinces/regions in China: Liaoning (northeast China) (n = 3); Hunan (central China) (n = 1); Guangdong (south China) (n = 1); Yunnan (southwest China) (n = 1). One additional recombinant strain was detected in a heterosexual individual in Liaoning province but is not the focus of this paper. Bayesian molecular clock analyses indicate that CRF59_01B emerged as a result of recombination between CRF01_AE and subtype B around the year 2001. The emergence of multiple forms of recombinants and CRFs reflects the ever-increasing contribution of homosexual transmission in China's HIV epidemic and indicates an active HIV transmission network among MSM in China.
PMCID: PMC4076182  PMID: 24978029
15.  Novel Recombinant Virus Assay for Measuring Susceptibility of Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 Group M Subtypes To Clinically Approved Drugs▿  
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2009;47(7):2232-2242.
Combination therapy can successfully suppress human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) replication in patients but selects for drug resistance, requiring subsequent resistance-guided therapeutic changes. This report describes the development and validation of a novel assay that offers a uniform method to measure susceptibility to all clinically approved HIV type 1 (HIV-1) drugs targeting reverse transcriptase (RT), protease (PR), integrase (IN), and viral entry. It is an assay in which the antiviral effect on infection within a single replication cycle is measured in triply transfected U87.CD4.CXCR4.CCR5 cells, based on homologous recombination between patient-derived amplicons and molecular proviral clones tagged with the enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP) reporter gene and from which certain viral genomic regions are removed. The deletions stretch from p17 codon 7 to PR codon 98 in pNL4.3-ΔgagPR-EGFP, from PR codons 1 to 99 in pNL4.3-ΔPR-EGFP, from RT codons 1 to 560 in pNL4.3-ΔRT-EGFP, from IN codons 1 to 288 in pNL4.3-ΔIN-EGFP, and from gp120 codon 34 to gp41 codon 237 in pNL4.3-Δenv-EGFP. The optimized experimental conditions enable the investigation of patient samples regardless of viral subtype or coreceptor use. The extraction and amplification success rate for a set of clinical samples belonging to a broad range of HIV-1 group M genetic forms (A-J, CRF01-03, CRF05, and CRF12-13) and displaying a viral load range of 200 to >500,000 RNA copies/ml was 97%. The drug susceptibility measurements, based on discrimination between infected and noninfected cells on a single-cell level by flow cytometry, were reproducible, with coefficients of variation for resistance ranging from 7% to 31%, and were consistent with scientific literature in terms of magnitude and specificity.
PMCID: PMC2708496  PMID: 19403770
16.  Detailed Molecular Epidemiologic Characterization of HIV-1 Infection in Bulgaria Reveals Broad Diversity and Evolving Phylodynamics 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(3):e59666.
Limited information is available to describe the molecular epidemiology of HIV-1 in Bulgaria. To better understand the genetic diversity and the epidemiologic dynamics of HIV-1 we analyzed 125 new polymerase (pol) sequences from Bulgarians diagnosed through 2009 and 77 pol sequences available from our previous study from persons infected prior to 2007. Epidemiologic and demographic information was obtained from each participant and phylogenetic analysis was used to infer HIV-1 evolutionary histories. 120 (59.5%) persons were infected with one of five different HIV-1 subtypes (A1, B, C, F1 and H) and 63 (31.2%) persons were infected with one of six different circulating recombinant forms (CRFs; 01_AE, 02_AG, 04_cpx, 05_DF, 14_BG, and 36_cpx). We also for the first time identified infection with two different clusters of unique A-like and F-like sub-subtype variants in 12 persons (5.9%) and seven unique recombinant forms (3.5%), including a novel J/C recombinant. While subtype B was the major genotype identified and was more prevalent in MSM and increased between 2000–2005, most non-B subtypes were present in persons ≥45 years old. CRF01_AE was the most common non-B subtype and was higher in women and IDUs relative to other risk groups combined. Our results show that HIV-1 infection in Bulgaria reflects the shifting distribution of genotypes coincident with the changing epidemiology of the HIV-1 epidemic among different risk groups. Our data support increased public health interventions targeting IDUs and MSM. Furthermore, the substantial and increasing HIV-1 genetic heterogeneity, combined with fluctuating infection dynamics, highlights the importance of sustained and expanded surveillance to prevent and control HIV-1 infection in Bulgaria.
PMCID: PMC3602066  PMID: 23527245
17.  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
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.  Evolutionary History of HIV-1 Subtype B and CRF01_AE Transmission Clusters among Men Who Have Sex with Men (MSM) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e67286.
HIV-1 epidemics among men who have sex with men (MSM) continue to expand in developed and developing countries. Although HIV infection in MSM is amongst the highest of the key affected populations in many countries in Southeast Asia, comprehensive molecular epidemiological study of HIV-1 among MSM remains inadequate in the region including in Malaysia. Here, we reported the phylodynamic profiles of HIV-1 genotypes circulating among MSM population in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. A total of n = 459 newly-diagnosed treatment-naïve consenting subjects were recruited between March 2006 and August 2012, of whom 87 (18.9%) were self-reported MSM. Transmitted drug resistance mutations were absent in these isolates. Cumulatively, phylogenetic reconstructions of the pro-rt gene (HXB2∶2253–3275) showed that HIV-1 subtype B and CRF01_AE were predominant and contributed to approximately 80% of the total HIV-1 infection among MSM. In addition to numerous unique transmission lineages within these genotypes, twelve monophyletic transmission clusters of different sizes (2–7 MSM sequences, supported by posterior probability value of 1) were identified in Malaysia. Bayesian coalescent analysis estimated that the divergence times for these clusters were mainly dated between 1995 and 2005 with four major transmission clusters radiating at least 12 years ago suggesting that active spread of multiple sub-epidemic clusters occurred during this period. The changes in effective population size of subtype B showed an exponential growth within 5 years between 1988 and 1993, while CRF01_AE lineage exhibited similar expansion between 1993 and 2003. Our study provides the first insight of the phylodynamic profile of HIV-1 subtype B and CRF01_AE circulating among MSM population in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, unravelling the importance of understanding transmission behaviours as well as evolutionary history of HIV-1 in assessing the risk of outbreak or epidemic expansion.
PMCID: PMC3688664  PMID: 23840653
20.  Molecular Epidemiology of HIV-1 in Jilin Province, Northeastern China: Emergence of a New CRF07_BC Transmission Cluster and Intersubtype Recombinants 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(10):e110738.
To investigate the HIV-1 molecular epidemiology among newly diagnosed HIV-1 infected persons living in the Jilin province of northeastern China.
Plasma samples from 189 newly diagnosed HIV-1 infected patients were collected between June 2010 and August 2011 from all nine cities of Jilin province. HIV-1 nucleotide sequences of gag P17–P24 and env C2–C4 gene regions were amplified using a multiplex RT-PCR method and sequenced. Phylogenetic and recombination analyses were used to determine the HIV-1 genotypes.
Based on all sequences generated, the subtype/CFR distribution was as follows: CRF01_AE (58.1%), CRF07_BC (13.2%), subtype B’ (13.2%), recombinant viruses (8.1%), subtype B (3.7%), CRF02_AG (2.9%), subtype C (0.7%). In addition to finding CRF01_AE strains from previously reported transmission clusters 1, 4 and 5, a new transmission cluster was described within the CRF07_BC radiation. Among 11 different recombinants identified, 10 contained portions of gene regions from the CRF01_AE lineage. CRF02_AG was found to form a transmission cluster of 4 in local Jilin residents.
Our study presents a molecular epidemiologic investigation describing the complex structure of HIV-1 strains co-circulating in Jilin province. The results highlight the critical importance of continuous monitoring of HIV-infections, along with detailed socio-demographic data, in order to design appropriate prevention measures to limit the spread of new HIV infections.
PMCID: PMC4214716  PMID: 25356726
21.  Reliability of Rapid Subtyping Tools Compared to That of Phylogenetic Analysis for Characterization of Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 Non-B Subtypes and Recombinant Forms▿  
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2008;46(12):3896-3899.
Human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) subtyping is often estimated on the basis of pol sequences by using online websites instead of phylogenetic analysis (phy). We evaluated the reliability of distinct rapid subtyping tools versus phy with a large panel of HIV-1 non-B subtypes and circulating recombinant forms (CRF). pol sequences (277 protease [PR] and 171 reverse transcriptase [RT] sequences) previously assigned by phy to eight distinct HIV-1 non-B subtypes were obtained from 277 HIV-infected patients. Phy was run again to identify CRF. Subtyping was then performed using three rapid tools (the Stanford, NCBI, and REGA online tools). Thirty-three additional clade B sequences were tested as controls. New phylogenetic analyses reclassified two-thirds of pol sequences previously assigned to HIV-1 non-B clades as CRF. CRF02_AG variants were correctly assigned by the Stanford and NCBI tools for 92 to 97% and 96 to 99% of PR-RT sequences, respectively, while they were correctly assigned by the REGA tool for only 18 to 32% of PR-RT sequences. The Stanford, NCBI, and REGA tools failed to assign pure non-B clades correctly for 24 to 33%, 35%, and 57 to 64% of PR-RT sequences, respectively. For PR-RT sequences from CRF other than CRF02_AG, discrepancies occurred in 98 to 100%, 18 to 43%, and 80 to 87% of sequences, respectively. The concordance between those tools and phy was almost complete for subtype B assignment. Rapid subtyping tools show relatively low agreement with phy in identifying HIV-1 non-B clades and CRF other than CRF02_AG. The Stanford tool shows the best concordance with phy for the assignment of pure non-B clades, while the NCBI tool performs better at identifying CRF. Before entering routine clinical use, rapid subtyping tools should be optimized and updated periodically. Larger numbers of different non-B subtypes and CRF sequences should be included.
PMCID: PMC2593290  PMID: 18842935
22.  One-Tube Real-Time Isothermal Amplification Assay To Identify and Distinguish Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 Subtypes A, B, and C and Circulating Recombinant Forms AE and AG 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2001;39(5):1895-1902.
To halt the human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) epidemic requires interventions that can prevent transmission of numerous HIV-1 subtypes. The most frequently transmitted viruses belong to the subtypes A, B, and C and the circulating recombinant forms (CRFs) AE and AG. A fast one-tube assay that identifies and distinguishes among subtypes A, B, and C and CRFs AE and AG of HIV-1 was developed. The assay amplifies a part of the gag gene sequence of the genome of all currently known HIV-1 subtypes and can identify and distinguish among the targeted subtypes as the reaction proceeds, because of the addition of subtype-specific molecular beacons with multiple fluorophores. The combination of isothermal nucleic acid sequence-based amplification and molecular beacons is a new approach in the design of real-time assays. To obtain a sufficiently specific assay, we developed a new strategy in the design of molecular beacons, purposely introducing mismatches in the molecular beacons. The subtype A and CRF AG isolates reacted with the same molecular beacon. We tested the specificity and sensitivity of the assay on a panel of the culture supernatant of 34 viruses encompassing all HIV-1 subtypes: subtypes A through G, CRF AE and AG, a group O isolate, and a group N isolate. Assay sensitivity on this panel was 92%, with 89% correct subtype identification relative to sequence analysis. A linear relationship was found between the amount of input RNA in the reaction mixture and the time that the reaction became positive. The lower detection level of the assay was approximately 103 copies of HIV-1 RNA per reaction. In 38% of 50 serum samples from HIV-1-infected individuals with a detectable amount of virus, we could identify subtype sequences with a specificity of 94% by using sequencing and phylogenetic analysis as the “gold standard.” In conclusion, we showed the feasibility of the approach of using multiple molecular beacons labeled with different fluorophores in combination with isothermal amplification to identify and distinguish subtypes A, B, and C and CRFs AE and AG of HIV-1. Because of the low sensitivity, the assay in this format would not be suited for clinical use but can possibly be used for epidemiological monitoring as well as vaccine research studies.
PMCID: PMC88045  PMID: 11326010
23.  Slow immunological progression in HIV-1 CRF07_BC-infected injecting drug users 
Human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) circulating recombinant form (CRF) 07_BC has caused serious HIV-1 epidemics among injecting drug users (IDUs) in East Asia. Little is known about the characteristics of the virus and its impact on disease progression among the infected individuals. In this study, we compared immunological progression between 423 IDUs infected with CRF07_BC and 194 men who have sex with men (MSM) with primary subtype B infection, and a representative full-length CRF07_BC molecular clone, pCRF07_BC, was constructed to characterize the virus. We found that IDUs infected with CRF07_BC had significantly slower immunological progression in the Cox proportional hazards model (hazard ratio: 0.30; 95% confidence interval: 0.13–0.69; P=0.004). The constructed recombinant CRF07_BC viruses had a reduced processing of the Gag/Gag-Pol polyproteins, a decreased incorporation of Vpr in the virus particle, tethering of virus particles on the plasma membrane and decreased virus growth kinetics. These phenotypes are related to the unique 7-amino acid deletion in the p6 of CRF07_BC, since complementation of the 7-amino acid in pCRF07_BC could improve the defective phenotypes. In summary, compared with MSM infected with HIV-1 subtype B, IDUs infected with CRF07_BC had slower immunological progression, which is likely correlated with interference of virus particle maturation by the 7-amino acid deletion in p6.
PMCID: PMC3880871
disease progression; growth kinetics; HIV subtype; injecting drug use; men who have sex with men; primary HIV infection
24.  High prevalence of CXCR4 usage among treatment-naive CRF01_AE and CRF51_01B-infected HIV-1 subjects in Singapore 
Recent studies suggest HIV-1 inter-subtype differences in co-receptor usage. We examined the correlation between HIV-1 subtype and co-receptor usage among treatment-naïve HIV-1 subjects in Singapore. Additionally, we investigated whether the subtype co-receptor association was influenced by stage of infection.
V3 sequences of HIV-1 envelope protein gp120 were obtained from 110 HIV treatment-naïve patients and genotypic co-receptor tropism determination was performed using Geno2pheno. Two false-positive rate (FPR) cut-offs, 10% and 5.75% were selected for tropism testing.
Subtype assignment of viral strains from 110 HIV-infected individuals based on partial sequencing of HIV-1 pol, gp120 and gp41 were as follows: 27 subtype B, 64 CRF01_AE, 10 CRF51_01B, and 9 other subtypes. At FPR=10%, 10 (100%) CRF51_01B-infected subjects and 26 (40.6%) CRF01_AE-infected subjects had CXCR4-using virus, compared to 7 (25.9%) subtype B subjects and 1 (11.1%) CRF33_01B-infected subject (P < 0.001). At FPR=5.75%, 10 (100%) CRF51_01B-infected subjects and 20 (31.3%) CRF01_AE-infected subjects had CXCR4-using virus, compared to 4 (14.8%) subtype B and 1 (11.1%) CRF33_01B-infected subjects (P < 0.001). Among those with evidence of seroconversion within 2 years prior to study enrolment, 100% of CRF51_01B-infected subjects had CXCR4-using virus, independent of Geno2pheno FPR.
CRF51_01B and CRF01_AE-infected individuals have higher prevalence of CXCR4-usage compared to subtype B infected individuals. Further studies examining these differences could help optimise the use of CCR5-antagonist in populations with these subtypes, and increase our understanding of HIV-1 biology.
PMCID: PMC3585921  PMID: 23421710
CXCR4 usage; HIV-1; treatment-naïve
25.  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

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