Cross-sectional assessment of HIV incidence relies on laboratory methods to discriminate between recent and non-recent HIV infection. Because HIV diversifies over time in infected individuals, HIV diversity may serve as a biomarker for assessing HIV incidence. We used a high resolution melting (HRM) diversity assay to compare HIV diversity in adults with different stages of HIV infection. This assay provides a single numeric HRM score that reflects the level of genetic diversity of HIV in a sample from an infected individual.
HIV diversity was measured in 203 adults: 20 with acute HIV infection (RNA positive, antibody negative), 116 with recent HIV infection (tested a median of 189 days after a previous negative HIV test, range 14–540 days), and 67 with non-recent HIV infection (HIV infected >2 years). HRM scores were generated for two regions in gag, one region in pol, and three regions in env.
Median HRM scores were higher in non-recent infection than in recent infection for all six regions tested. In multivariate models, higher HRM scores in three of the six regions were independently associated with non-recent HIV infection.
The HRM diversity assay provides a simple, scalable method for measuring HIV diversity. HRM scores, which reflect the genetic diversity in a viral population, may be useful biomarkers for evaluation of HIV incidence, particularly if multiple regions of the HIV genome are examined.