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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.  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
3.  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
4.  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
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.  Genetic Characterization of a Novel HIV-1 Circulating Recombinant Form (CRF74_01B) Identified among Intravenous Drug Users in Malaysia: Recombination History and Phylogenetic Linkage with Previously Defined Recombinant Lineages 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(7):e0133883.
In many parts of Southeast Asia, the HIV-1 epidemic has been driven by the sharing of needles and equipment among intravenous drug users (IDUs). Over the last few decades, many studies have proven time and again that the diversity of HIV-1 epidemics can often be linked to the route of infection transmission. That said, the diversity and complexity of HIV-1 molecular epidemics in the region have been increasing at an alarming rate, due in part to the high tendency of the viral RNA to recombine. This scenario was exemplified by the discovery of numerous circulating recombinant forms (CRFs), especially in Thailand and Malaysia. In this study, we characterized a novel CRF designated CRF74_01B, which was identified in six epidemiologically unlinked IDUs in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The near-full length genomes were composed of CRF01_AE and subtype B', with eight breakpoints dispersed in the gag-pol and nef regions. Remarkably, this CRF shared four and two recombination hotspots with the previously described CRF33_01B and the less prevalent CRF53_01B, respectively. Genealogy-based Bayesian phylogenetic analysis of CRF74_01B genomic regions showed that it is closely related to both CRF33_01B and CRF53_01B. This observation suggests that CRF74_01B was probably a direct descendent from specific lineages of CRF33_01B, CRF53_01B and subtype Bʹ that could have emerged in the mid-1990s. Additionally, it illustrated the active recombination processes between prevalent HIV-1 subtypes and recombinants in Malaysia. In summary, we report a novel HIV-1 genotype designated CRF74_01B among IDUs in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The characterization of the novel CRF74_01B is of considerable significance towards the understanding of the genetic diversity and population dynamics of HIV-1 circulating in the region.
PMCID: PMC4510129  PMID: 26196131
7.  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
8.  Identification of a Novel HIV-1 Intra-CRF01_AE in China: A Descendant of the Previously Identified CRF01_AE transmission clusters 1 and 6 
Science China. Life sciences  2015;58(7):724-726.
We report here a novel HIV-1 intra-CRF01_AE recombinant form (CRF01-1AE/CRF01-6AE) composed of CRF01_AE transmission clusters 1 and 6, identified among heterosexuals in Fujian, with one breakpoint observed in vif gene. The CRF01_AE region I (HXB2: 868-5184) of the recombinant was clustered with the CRF01_AE transmission cluster 1, which is mainly circulating among IDUs and heterosexuals from the southern and southwestern China, with the support of 100% bootstrap value. The CRF01_AE region II (HXB2: 5185-9605) of the recombinant was clustered with the CRF01_AE transmission cluster 6, which is mainly prevailing among heterosexuals from southern China, with the support of 100% bootstrap value. To our best knowledge, this is the first detection of a novel HIV-1 intra-CRF01_AE recombinant form (CRF01-1_AE/CRF01-6_AE) in Fujian Province, which indicates ongoing active HIV-1 transmission among heterosexuals in this region. It may help illustrate CRF01_AE genetic diversity and contribute to our understanding of HIV-1 epidemiology, pathogenesis, and vaccine development.
PMCID: PMC4612365  PMID: 26100011
9.  Genomic Characterization of Two Novel HIV-1 Unique (CRF01_AE/B) Recombinant Forms Among Men Who Have Sex with Men in Beijing, China 
We report here two novel HIV-1 recombinant forms (CRF01_AE/B) isolated from two HIV-positive male subjects infected through homosexual contact in Beijing, China. Recombination contributes substantially to the genetic diversity of HIV-1, and is likely to occur in populations in which multiple subtypes circulate. Molecular epidemiological studies showed that subtype B, CRF01_AE, and CRF07_BC are currently cocirculating in parallel among men who have sex with men (MSM) in China, providing the opportunity for the emergence of new recombinants. Phylogenetic analysis of near full-length genome (NFLG) sequences showed that the unique recombinant forms (URFs) were composed of gene regions from CRF01_AE and subtype B. The CRF01_AE region of the recombinants clustered together with a previously described cluster 4 lineage of CRF01_AE. The B regions of both the recombinants clustered within the B strains. The two recombinants were quite similar with six breakpoints in common. These data highlight the importance of continuous surveillance of the dynamic change of HIV-1 subtypes and new recombinants among the MSM population.
PMCID: PMC4553378  PMID: 26058342
10.  HIV-1 diversity in infected individuals in Suzhou and Suqian, China 
SpringerPlus  2016;5(1):886.
Jiangsu is one province with severe HIV-1 epidemic in China. However, the molecular epidemiological characterizations of HIV-1 in many cities of Jiangsu remain unclear. A molecular epidemiological investigation was performed based on 38 HIV-positive samples collected from Suzhou and Suqian during 2011–2013. Five HIV-1 genomic fragments, p17, pol, vif-vpr, vpr-env, and C2V3 were amplified and sequenced from these samples. HIV-1 group M subtype of each sample was determined by phylogenetic analyses with the standard reference sequences. Among these infected individuals, 81.6 % (31/38) self-reported to be infected via sexual contacts, including 50.0 % (19/38) via heterosexual contact and 31.6 % (12/38) via homosexual contact. Among 34 samples with available pol or vif-env sequence, 19 (55.9 %) CRF01_AE, 7 (20.6 %) CRF07_BC, 3 (8.8 %) CRF08_BC, and 5 (14.7 %) inter-subtype recombinants were identified. No pure B, B′ and C subtypes were found in this cohort. The five recombinants contain one B/C, three CRF01/B and one CRF01/B/C recombinants. These results suggest that CRF01_AE was the most predominant HIV-1 group M subtype and CRF01_AE-involved recombinants were the major recombinant forms. Comparison showed that there was no obvious difference in HIV-1 group M subtype distribution between Jiangsu (including Suzhou and Suqian) and the surrounding provinces (e.g., Shanghai, Anhui, and Shandong). CRF01_AE and CRF07_BC were the top two predominant HIV-1 genotypes in Jiangsu, and less and/or no pure subtype B and C was currently circulating here. We predicted that more CRF01/CRF07 recombinants, but fewer B/C recombinants will be generated in Jiangsu in future.
PMCID: PMC4920801  PMID: 27386334
HIV-1; Epidemiology; Recombination forms; Subtype distribution; CRF01_AE
11.  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
12.  Molecular Detection of HIV-1 Subtype B, CRF01_AE, CRF33_01B, and Newly Emerging Recombinant Lineages in Malaysia 
A molecular genotyping assay for human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) circulating in Southeast Asia is difficult to design because of the high level of genetic diversity. We developed a multiplex real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assay to detect subtype B, CRF01_AE, CRF33_01B, and three newly described circulating recombinant forms, (CRFs) (CRF53_01B, CRF54_01B, and CRF58_01B). A total of 785 reference genomes were used for subtype-specific primers and TaqMan probes design targeting the gag, pol, and env genes. The performance of this assay was compared and evaluated with direct sequencing and phylogenetic analysis. A total of 180 HIV-infected subjects from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia were screened and 171 samples were successfully genotyped, in agreement with the phylogenetic data. The HIV-1 genotype distribution was as follows: subtype B (16.7%); CRF01_AE (52.8%); CRF33_01B (24.4%); CRF53_01B (1.1%); CRF54_01B (0.6%); and CRF01_AE/B unique recombinant forms (4.4%). The overall accuracy of the genotyping assay was over 95.0%, in which the sensitivities for subtype B, CRF01_AE, and CRF33_01B detection were 100%, 100%, and 97.7%, respectively. The specificity of genotyping was 100%, inter-subtype specificities were > 95% and the limit of detection of 103 copies/mL for plasma. The newly developed real-time PCR assay offers a rapid and cost-effective alternative for large-scale molecular epidemiological surveillance for HIV-1.
PMCID: PMC4350539  PMID: 25535315
13.  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
14.  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
15.  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
16.  Phylogenetic and Geospatial Evaluation of HIV-1 Subtype Diversity at the Largest HIV Center in Rhode Island 
Individuals infected with HIV-1 non-B subtypes are understudied in the United States. Their characterization may augment prevention and treatment interventions. We examined the regional molecular epidemiology of non-B subtypes using a combined phylogenetic and geospatial approach. HIV-1 pol sequences and clinical data obtained for routine clinical care were aggregated from 2004–2011 at the largest HIV center in Rhode Island. Subtyping was performed by neighbor-joining and maximum-likelihood phylogeny and compared across eight commonly used tools (HIVdb, REGA, RIP, NCBI, Geno2Pheno, EuResist, jpHMM and STAR) using proportional odds ordinal regression. Individuals with non-B subtypes were characterized according to demographics and risk factors for infection, intra-subtype clustering by maximum-likelihood phylogeny, and geospatial hotspot analysis using Getis-Ord Gi* statistics. Of 1,277 unique sequences, phylogenetic subtyping demonstrated 8.3% (N=106, 95% CI 6.8%–10%) non-B subtypes and circulating recombinant forms (CRFs): CRF02_AG=46; A=15; C=15; CRF01_AE=6; CRF06_CPX=5; CRF14_BG=5; G=3; CRF43_02G=3; D=3; CRF24_BG=3; CRF11_CPX=1; F1=1. Compared to phylogeny, Geno2Pheno was the most concordant (86% exact match) followed by REGA (85%), EuResist (85%) and STAR (82%). Of 106 individuals with non-B subtypes, 50% were male, 71% acquired infection through heterosexual transmission; 76%, were born in Africa, 6% Southeast Asia, 5% the United States, 3% Central America, 1% Europe, and 9% unknown. Eighty percent of CRF02_AG, 93% of A and 87% of C sequences were from African-born individuals. Twenty-two percent of non-B subtypes formed transmission clusters, including a significant number of younger individuals with perinatally-acquired infection. Geospatial analyses revealed hotspots of B and non-B subtypes in the state capital with a more concentrated focus among non-B subtypes. Molecular examination of regional HIV diversity revealed a larger than expected non-subtype B infected population, mostly born in Africa, with low ongoing regional transmission. Phylogenetic and geospatial characterization of infection clusters is helpful to identify targets for treatment and prevention interventions.
PMCID: PMC4190103  PMID: 24721515
17.  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
18.  HIV-1 genetic diversity and its distribution characteristics among newly diagnosed HIV-1 individuals in Hebei province, China 
Since the first HIV-1 case in 1989, Hebei province has presented a clearly rising trend of HIV-1 prevalence, and HIV-1 genetic diversity has become the vital barrier to HIV prevention and control in this area. To obtain detailed information of HIV-1 spread in different populations and in different areas of Hebei, a cross-sectional HIV-1 molecular epidemiological investigation was performed across the province.
Blood samples of 154 newly diagnosed HIV-1 individuals were collected from ten prefectures in Hebei using stratified sampling. Partial gag and env genes were amplified and sequenced. HIV-1 genotypes were identified by phylogenetic tree analyses.
Among the 139 subjects genotyped, six HIV-1 subtypes were identified successfully, including subtype B (41.0 %), CRF01_AE (40.3 %), CRF07_BC (11.5 %), CRF08_BC (4.3 %), unique recombinant forms (URFs) (1.4 %) and subtype C (1.4 %). Subtype B was identified as the most frequent subtype. Two URF recombination patterns were the same as CRF01_AE/B. HIV-1 genotype distribution showed a significant statistical difference in different demographic characteristics, such as source (P < 0.05), occupation (P < 0.05) and ethnicity (P < 0.05). The distributions of subtype B (P < 0.05), CRF01_AE (P < 0.05), CRF07_BC (P < 0.05) and subtype C (P < 0.05) showed significant differences in all ten prefectures, and the distributions of all six subtypes were significantly different in Shijiazhuang (P < 0.05) and Xingtai (P < 0.05), but not in other prefectures (P > 0.05). The differences in HIV-1 genotype distribution were closely associated with transmission routes. Particularly, all six subtype strains were found in heterosexuals, showing that HIV-1 has spread from the high-risk populations to the general populations in Hebei, China. In addition, CRF01_AE instead of subtype B has become the major strain of HIV-1 infection among homosexuals.
Our study revealed HIV-1 evolution and genotype distribution by investigating newly diagnosed HIV-1 individuals in Hebei, China. This study provides important information to enhance the strategic plan for HIV prevention and control in China.
PMCID: PMC4719688  PMID: 26793263
HIV-1; Genetic diversity; Transmission; Distribution; Phylogeny; China
19.  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
20.  Extensive Genetic Diversity of HIV-1 in Incident and Prevalent Infections among Malaysian Blood Donors: Multiple Introductions of HIV-1 Genotypes from Highly Prevalent Countries 
PLoS ONE  2016;11(8):e0161853.
Transfusion-transmissible infections including HIV-1 continue to pose major risks for unsafe blood transfusions due to both window phase infections and divergent viruses that may not be detected by donor screening assays. Given the recent emergence of several HIV-1 circulating recombinant forms (CRFs) in high-risk populations in the Southeast Asia region, we investigated the genetic diversity of HIV-1 among the blood donors in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. A total of 211 HIV-positive plasma samples detected among 730,188 donations to the National Blood Centre between 2013 and 2014 were provided (90.5% male, median age: 27.0 years old). Recent or long-term infection status at the time of donation was determined using a limiting antigen avidity enzyme immunoassay (LAg-Avidity EIA). HIV-1 gag-pol genes were amplified and sequenced from residual plasma for 149 cases followed by genotype determination using phylogenetic and recombination analyses. Transmitted antiretroviral resistance mutations were not observed among the blood donors, among which 22.7% were classified as recent or incident infections. Major circulating HIV-1 genotypes determined by neighbour-joining phylogenetic inference included CRF01_AE at 40.9% (61/149), CRF33_01B at 21.5% (32/149), and subtype B at 10.1% (15/149). Newly-described CRFs including CRF54_01B circulated at 4.0%, CRF74_01B at 2.0%, and CRF53_01B and CRF48_01B at 0.7% each. Interestingly, unique HIV-1 genotypes including African subtype G (8.7%), CRF45_cpx (1.3%), CRF02_AG (0.7%) and CRF07_BC (0.7%) from China were detected for the first time in the country. A cluster of subtype G sequences formed a distinct founder sub-lineage within the African strains. In addition, 8.7% (13/149) of HIV-infected donors had unique recombinant forms (URFs) including CRF01_AE/B' (4.7%), B'/C (2.7%) and B'/G (1.3%) recombinants. Detailed analysis identified similar recombinant structures with shared parental strains among the B'/C and B'/G URFs, some of which were sequenced from recently infected individuals, indicating the possible emergence and on-going spread of foreign clades of CRF candidates among the local population. The findings demonstrate extensive molecular complexity of HIV-1 among the infected blood donors in Malaysia, driven in part by the increased spread of recently described CRFs and multiple introductions of previously unreported genotypes from highly prevalent countries.
PMCID: PMC5004849  PMID: 27575746
21.  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
22.  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
23.  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
24.  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
25.  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

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