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1.  High prevalence of HIV, chlamydia and gonorrhoea among men who have sex with men and transgender women attending trusted community centres in Abuja and Lagos, Nigeria 
Sexually transmitted infection (STI) and HIV prevalence have been reported to be higher amongst men who have sex with men (MSM) in Nigeria than in the general population. The objective of this study was to characterize the prevalence of HIV, chlamydia and gonorrhoea in this population using laboratory-based universal testing.
TRUST/RV368 represents a cohort of MSM and transgender women (TGW) recruited at trusted community centres in Abuja and Lagos, Nigeria, using respondent-driven sampling (RDS). Participants undergo a structured comprehensive assessment of HIV-related risks and screening for anorectal and urogenital Chlamydia trachomatis and Neisseria gonorrhoeae, and HIV. Crude and RDS-weighted prevalence estimates with 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were calculated. Log-binomial regression was used to explore factors associated with prevalent HIV infection and STIs.
From March 2013 to January 2016, 862 MSM and TGW (316 in Lagos and 546 in Abuja) underwent screening for HIV, chlamydia and gonorrhoea at study enrolment. Participants’ median age was 24 years [interquartile range (IQR) 21–27]. One-third (34.2%) were identified as gay/homosexual and 65.2% as bisexual. The overall prevalence of HIV was 54.9%. After adjusting for the RDS recruitment method, HIV prevalence in Abuja was 43.5% (95% CI 37.3–49.6%) and in Lagos was 65.6% (95% CI 54.7–76.5%). The RDS-weighted prevalence of chlamydia was 17.0% (95% CI 11.8–22.3%) in Abuja and 18.3% (95% CI 11.1–25.4%) in Lagos. Chlamydia infection was detected only at the anorectal site in 70.2% of cases. The RDS-weighted prevalence of gonorrhoea was 19.1% (95% CI 14.6–23.5%) in Abuja and 25.8% (95% CI 17.1–34.6%) in Lagos. Overall, 84.2% of gonorrhoea cases presented with anorectal infection only. Over 95% of STI cases were asymptomatic. In a multivariable model, increased risk for chlamydia/gonorrhoea was associated with younger age, gay/homosexual sexual orientation and higher number of partners for receptive anal sex. HIV infection was associated with older age, female gender identity and number of partners for receptive anal sex.
There is a high burden of infection with HIV and asymptomatic chlamydia and gonorrhoea among MSM and TGW in Nigeria. Most cases would have been missed without anorectal screening. Interventions are needed to target this population for appropriate STI screening and management beginning at a young age.
PMCID: PMC5146323  PMID: 27931519
HIV; chlamydia; gonorrhoea; prevalence; MSM; Nigeria
2.  Prospective Study of Acute HIV-1 Infection in Adults in East Africa and Thailand 
The New England journal of medicine  2016;374(22):2120-2130.
Acute human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) infection is a major contributor to transmission of HIV-1. An understanding of acute HIV-1 infection may be important in the development of treatment strategies to eradicate HIV-1 or achieve a functional cure.
We performed twice-weekly qualitative plasma HIV-1 RNA nucleic acid testing in 2276 volunteers who were at high risk for HIV-1 infection. For participants in whom acute HIV-1 infection was detected, clinical observations, quantitative measurements of plasma HIV-1 RNA levels (to assess viremia) and HIV antibodies, and results of immunophenotyping of lymphocytes were obtained twice weekly.
Fifty of 112 volunteers with acute HIV-1 infection had two or more blood samples collected before HIV-1 antibodies were detected. The median peak viremia (6.7 log10 copies per milliliter) occurred 13 days after the first sample showed reactivity on nucleic acid testing. Reactivity on an enzyme immunoassay occurred at a median of 14 days. The nadir of viremia (4.3 log10 copies per milliliter) occurred at a median of 31 days and was nearly equivalent to the viral-load set point, the steady-state viremia that persists durably after resolution of acute viremia (median plasma HIV-1 RNA level, 4.4 log10 copies per milliliter). The peak viremia and downslope were correlated with the viral-load set point. Clinical manifestations of acute HIV-1 infection were most common just before and at the time of peak viremia. A median of one symptom of acute HIV-1 infection was recorded at a median of two study visits, and a median of one sign of acute HIV-1 infection was recorded at a median of three visits.
The viral-load set point occurred at a median of 31 days after the first detection of plasma viremia and correlated with peak viremia. Few symptoms and signs were observed during acute HIV-1 infection, and they were most common before peak viremia. (Funded by the Department of Defense and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.)
PMCID: PMC5111628  PMID: 27192360
3.  Expansion of Inefficient HIV-Specific CD8 T Cells during Acute Infection 
Journal of Virology  2016;90(8):4005-4016.
Attrition within the CD4+ T cell compartment, high viremia, and a cytokine storm characterize the early days after HIV infection. When the first emerging HIV-specific CD8+ T cell responses gain control over viral replication it is incomplete, and clearance of HIV infection is not achieved even in the rare cases of individuals who spontaneously control viral replication to nearly immeasurably low levels. Thus, despite their partial ability to control viremia, HIV-specific CD8+ T cell responses are insufficient to clear HIV infection. Studying individuals in the first few days of acute HIV infection, we detected the emergence of a unique population of CD38+ CD27− CD8+ T cells characterized by the low expression of the CD8 receptor (CD8dim). Interestingly, while high frequencies of HIV-specific CD8+ T cell responses occur within the CD38+ CD27− CD8dim T cell population, the minority populations of CD8bright T cells are significantly more effective in inhibiting HIV replication. Furthermore, the frequency of CD8dim T cells directly correlates with viral load and clinical predictors of more rapid disease progression. We found that a canonical burst of proliferative cytokines coincides with the emergence of CD8dim T cells, and the size of this population inversely correlates with the acute loss of CD4+ T cells. These data indicate, for the first time, that early CD4+ T cell loss coincides with the expansion of a functionally impaired HIV-specific CD8dim T cell population less efficient in controlling HIV viremia.
IMPORTANCE A distinct population of activated CD8+ T cells appears during acute HIV infection with diminished capacity to inhibit HIV replication and is predictive of viral set point, offering the first immunologic evidence of CD8+ T cell dysfunction during acute infection.
PMCID: PMC4810544  PMID: 26842474
4.  Significant contribution of subtype G to HIV-1 genetic complexity in Nigeria identified by a newly developed subtyping assay specific for subtype G and CRF02_AG 
Medicine  2016;95(32):e4346.
Supplemental Digital Content is available in the text
While abundant sequence information is available from human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) subtypes A, B, C and CRF01_AE for HIV-1 vaccine design, sequences from West Africa are less represented. We sought to augment our understanding of HIV-1 variants circulating in 6 Nigerian cities as a step to subsequent HIV-1 vaccine development.
The G/CRF02_AG multi-region hybridization assay (MHA) was developed to differentiate subtype G, CRF02_AG and their recombinants from other subtypes based on 7 HIV-1 segments. Plasma from 224 HIV-1 infected volunteers enrolled in a cohort examining HIV-1 prevalence, risk factor, and subtype from Makurdi (30), Abuja (18), Enugu (11), Kaduna (12), Tafa (95), and Ojo/Lagos (58) was analyzed using MHA. HIV-1 genomes from 42 samples were sequenced to validate the MHA and fully explore the recombinant structure of G and CRF02_AG variants.
The sensitivity and specificity of MHA varied between 73–100% and 90–100%, respectively. The subtype distribution as identified by MHA among 224 samples revealed 38% CRF02_AG, 28% G, and 26% G/CRF02_AG recombinants while 8% remained nontypeable strains. In envelope (env) gp120, 38.84% of the samples reacted to a G probe while 31.25% reacted to a CRF02 (subtype A) probe. Full genome characterization of 42 sequences revealed the complexity of Nigerian HIV-1 variants.
CRF02_AG, subtype G, and their recombinants were the major circulating HIV-1 variants in 6 Nigerian cities. High proportions of samples reacted to a G probe in env gp120 confirms that subtype G infections are abundant and should be considered in strategies for global HIV-1 vaccine development.
PMCID: PMC4985300  PMID: 27512845
Genetic complexity; HIV-1; Nigeria; Recombinant; Subtypes
5.  Temporal Dynamics of CD8+ T Cell Effector Responses during Primary HIV Infection 
PLoS Pathogens  2016;12(8):e1005805.
The loss of HIV-specific CD8+ T cell cytolytic function is a primary factor underlying progressive HIV infection, but whether HIV-specific CD8+ T cells initially possess cytolytic effector capacity, and when and why this may be lost during infection, is unclear. Here, we assessed CD8+ T cell functional evolution from primary to chronic HIV infection. We observed a profound expansion of perforin+ CD8+ T cells immediately following HIV infection that quickly waned after acute viremia resolution. Selective expression of the effector-associated transcription factors T-bet and eomesodermin in cytokine-producing HIV-specific CD8+ T cells differentiated HIV-specific from bulk memory CD8+ T cell effector expansion. As infection progressed expression of perforin was maintained in HIV-specific CD8+ T cells with high levels of T-bet, but not necessarily in the population of T-betLo HIV-specific CD8+ T cells that expand as infection progresses. Together, these data demonstrate that while HIV-specific CD8+ T cells in acute HIV infection initially possess cytolytic potential, progressive transcriptional dysregulation leads to the reduced CD8+ T cell perforin expression characteristic of chronic HIV infection.
Author Summary
Previous studies have demonstrated that HIV-specific CD8+ T cells are critical for the initial control of HIV infection. However, this control is typically incomplete, being able to neither clear infection nor maintain plasma viremia below undetectable levels. Mounting evidence has implicated CD8+ T cell cytotoxic capacity as a critical component of the HIV-specific response associated with spontaneous long-term control of HIV replication. CD8+ T cell cytotoxic responses are largely absent in the vast majority of HIV chronically infected individuals and it is unclear when or why this functionality is lost. In this study we show that HIV-specific CD8+ T cells readily express the cytolytic protein perforin during the acute phase of chronic progressive HIV infection but rapidly lose the ability to upregulate this molecule following resolution of peak viremia. Maintenance of perforin expression by HIV-specific CD8+ T cells appears to be associated with the expression level of the transcription factor T-bet, but not with the T-bet paralogue, Eomes. These findings further delineate qualitative attributes of CD8+ T cell-mediated immunity that may serve as targets for future HIV vaccine and therapeutic research.
PMCID: PMC4972399  PMID: 27486665
6.  Altered Memory Circulating T Follicular Helper-B Cell Interaction in Early Acute HIV Infection 
PLoS Pathogens  2016;12(7):e1005777.
The RV254 cohort of HIV-infected very early acute (4thG stage 1 and 2) (stage 1/2) and late acute (4thG stage 3) (stage 3) individuals was used to study T helper- B cell responses in acute HIV infection and the impact of early antiretroviral treatment (ART) on T and B cell function. To investigate this, the function of circulating T follicular helper cells (cTfh) from this cohort was examined, and cTfh and memory B cell populations were phenotyped. Impaired cTfh cell function was observed in individuals treated in stage 3 when compared to stage 1/2. The cTfh/B cell cocultures showed lower B cell survival and IgG secretion at stage 3 compared to stage 1/2. This coincided with lower IL-10 and increased RANTES and TNF-α suggesting a role for inflammation in altering cTfh and B cell responses. Elevated plasma viral load in stage 3 was found to correlate with decreased cTfh-mediated B cell IgG production indicating a role for increased viremia in cTfh impairment and dysfunctional humoral response. Phenotypic perturbations were also evident in the mature B cell compartment, most notably a decrease in resting memory B cells in stage 3 compared to stage 1/2, coinciding with higher viremia. Our coculture assay also suggested that intrinsic memory B cell defects could contribute to the impaired response despite at a lower level. Overall, cTfh-mediated B cell responses are significantly altered in stage 3 compared to stage 1/2, coinciding with increased inflammation and a reduction in memory B cells. These data suggest that early ART for acutely HIV infected individuals could prevent immune dysregulation while preserving cTfh function and B cell memory.
Author Summary
The HIV-specific T cell memory response diminishes rapidly even after the initiation of anti-retroviral treatment (ART), and there is no control of viral rebound if treatment is interrupted. Restoration or preservation of memory T cells or B cells with treatment, to allow for control of virus replication after ART is stopped, is therefore very important. CD4+ T cells, in particular T follicular helper (Tfh) cells, have a major role in mediating antiviral immunity by providing help to B cells, which is key to a strong and efficient anti-HIV antibody response. The unique RV254 cohort provided the best setting to analyze immune responses during very early acute HIV, as the study was able to enroll individuals that were infected for less than 2 weeks and initiated treatment approximately 1–2 days after recruitment. We aimed to study the capacity of memory circulating Tfh (cTfh) cells to promote B cell help in acute HIV infection, and found the interaction to be dysfunctional in the later stage compared to the very early stages, accompanied by increased levels of proinflammatory cytokines and a reduction in regulatory cytokines. High levels of plasma viremia correlated with low cTfh-mediated B cell antibody production in later stage acute individuals; and memory B cells were significantly decreased but could be restored with ART, compared to chronically infected individuals, who could not normalize this compartment compared to healthy individuals. Overall, we show that the cTfh- B cell interaction and B cell memory compartment is altered in late stage acute infection, mainly attributed to an increase in inflammation and skewing of the response away from helper to proinflammatory. Identifying individuals for treatment in the earliest stages of acute infection, prior to immune damage, could preserve cTfh function and the anti-HIV B cell response, therefore reducing the chances of viral rebound upon the cessation of ART.
PMCID: PMC4963136  PMID: 27463374
7.  HIV DNA Set Point is Rapidly Established in Acute HIV Infection and Dramatically Reduced by Early ART☆☆☆ 
EBioMedicine  2016;11:68-72.
HIV DNA is a marker of HIV persistence that predicts HIV progression and remission, but its kinetics in early acute HIV infection (AHI) is poorly understood. We longitudinally measured the frequency of peripheral blood mononuclear cells harboring total and integrated HIV DNA in 19 untreated and 71 treated AHI participants, for whom 50 were in the earliest Fiebig I/II (HIV IgM −) stage, that is ≤ 2 weeks from infection. Without antiretroviral therapy (ART), HIV DNA peaked at 2 weeks after enrollment, reaching a set-point 2 weeks later with little change thereafter. There was a marked divergence of HIV DNA values between the untreated and treated groups that occurred within the first 2 weeks of ART and increased with time. ART reduced total HIV DNA levels by 20-fold after 2 weeks and 316-fold after 3 years. Therefore, very early ART offers the opportunity to significantly reduce the frequency of cells harboring HIV DNA.
•The HIV DNA set-point is established early in acute HIV infection.•Over three years without antiretroviral therapy, persons with acute HIV infection have total HIV DNA in peripheral blood mononuclear cells that is 300-fold and integrated HIV DNA that is 100-fold higher than those on treatment.•Early antiretroviral therapy provides an opportunity to markedly reduce proviral HIV DNA burden,
HIV is difficult to cure because it infects long-lived cells in the body, also called “reservoirs”. Having a small HIV reservoir size may benefit health. We show that HIV DNA in peripheral blood cells, a marker of the HIV reservoir size, establishes a set-point level during the first 6 weeks of infection and changes little over time without HIV medications. However, if HIV medications are started early, the reservoir size declines rapidly, and is 300-fold lower than that seen in untreated persons. Currently the most effective way to significantly lower the HIV reservoir size is with very early treatment.
PMCID: PMC5049918  PMID: 27460436
Acute HIV infection; Art; HIV DNA; Reservoir; Persistence
8.  Features of Recently Transmitted HIV-1 Clade C Viruses that Impact Antibody Recognition: Implications for Active and Passive Immunization 
PLoS Pathogens  2016;12(7):e1005742.
The development of biomedical interventions to reduce acquisition of HIV-1 infection remains a global priority, however their potential effectiveness is challenged by very high HIV-1 envelope diversity. Two large prophylactic trials in high incidence, clade C epidemic regions in southern Africa are imminent; passive administration of the monoclonal antibody VRC01, and active immunization with a clade C modified RV144-like vaccines. We have created a large representative panel of C clade viruses to enable assessment of antibody responses to vaccines and natural infection in Southern Africa, and we investigated the genotypic and neutralization properties of recently transmitted clade C viruses to determine how viral diversity impacted antibody recognition. We further explore the implications of these findings for the potential effectiveness of these trials. A panel of 200 HIV-1 Envelope pseudoviruses was constructed from clade C viruses collected within the first 100 days following infection. Viruses collected pre-seroconversion were significantly more resistant to serum neutralization compared to post-seroconversion viruses (p = 0.001). Over 13 years of the study as the epidemic matured, HIV-1 diversified (p = 0.0009) and became more neutralization resistant to monoclonal antibodies VRC01, PG9 and 4E10. When tested at therapeutic levels (10ug/ml), VRC01 only neutralized 80% of viruses in the panel, although it did exhibit potent neutralization activity against sensitive viruses (IC50 titres of 0.42 μg/ml). The Gp120 amino acid similarity between the clade C panel and candidate C-clade vaccine protein boosts (Ce1086 and TV1) was 77%, which is 8% more distant than between CRF01_AE viruses and the RV144 CRF01_AE immunogen. Furthermore, two vaccine signature sites, K169 in V2 and I307 in V3, associated with reduced infection risk in RV144, occurred less frequently in clade C panel viruses than in CRF01_AE viruses from Thailand. Increased resistance of pre-seroconversion viruses and evidence of antigenic drift highlights the value of using panels of very recently transmitted viruses and suggests that interventions may need to be modified over time to track the changing epidemic. Furthermore, high divergence such as that observed in the older clade C epidemic in southern Africa may impact vaccine efficacy, although the correlates of infection risk are yet to be defined in the clade C setting. Findings from this study of acute/early clade C viruses will aid vaccine development, and enable identification of new broad and potent antibodies to combat the HIV-1 C-clade epidemic in southern Africa.
Author Summary
Vaccine and passive immunization prophylactic trials that rely on antibody-mediated protection are planned for HIV-1 clade C epidemic regions of southern Africa, which have amongst the highest HIV-1 incidences globally. This includes a phase 2b trial of passively administered monoclonal antibody, VRC01; as well as a phase 3 trial using the clade C modified version of the partially efficacious RV144 vaccine. The extraordinary diversity of HIV-1 poses a major obstacle to these interventions, and our study aimed to determine the implications of viral diversity on antibody recognition. Investigations using our panel of very early viruses augment current knowledge of vulnerable targets on transmitted viruses for vaccine design and passive immunization studies. Evidence of antigenic drift with viruses becoming more resistant over time suggests that these prevention modalities will need to be updated over time and that combinations of antibodies will be necessary to achieve coverage in passive immunization studies. We further show that it may be more difficult to obtain protection in the genetically diverse clade C epidemic compared to RV144 where the epidemic is less diverse, although it should be noted that the correlates of infection risk are yet to be defined in the clade C setting.
PMCID: PMC4951126  PMID: 27434311
9.  Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 Monoclonal Antibodies Suppress Acute Simian-Human Immunodeficiency Virus Viremia and Limit Seeding of Cell-Associated Viral Reservoirs 
Journal of Virology  2016;90(3):1321-1332.
Combination antiretroviral therapy (cART) administered shortly after human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) infection can suppress viremia and limit seeding of the viral reservoir, but lifelong treatment is required for the majority of patients. Highly potent broadly neutralizing HIV-1 monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) can reduce plasma viremia when administered during chronic HIV-1 infection, but the therapeutic potential of these antibodies during acute infection is unknown. We tested the ability of HIV-1 envelope glycoprotein-specific broadly neutralizing MAbs to suppress acute simian-human immunodeficiency virus (SHIV) replication in rhesus macaques. Four groups of macaques were infected with SHIV-SF162P3 and received (i) the CD4-binding-site MAb VRC01; (ii) a combination of a more potent clonal relative of VRC01 (VRC07-523) and a V3 glycan-dependent MAb (PGT121); (iii) daily cART, all on day 10, just prior to expected peak plasma viremia; or (iv) no treatment. Daily cART was initiated 11 days after MAb administration and was continued for 13 weeks in all treated animals. Over a period of 11 days after a single administration, MAb treatment significantly reduced peak viremia, accelerated the decay slope, and reduced total viral replication compared to untreated controls. Proviral DNA in lymph node CD4 T cells was also diminished after treatment with the dual MAb. These data demonstrate the virological effect of potent MAbs and support future clinical trials that investigate HIV-1-neutralizing MAbs as adjunctive therapy with cART during acute HIV-1 infection.
IMPORTANCE Treatment of chronic HIV-1 infection with potent broadly neutralizing HIV-1 MAbs has been shown to significantly reduce plasma viremia. However, the antiviral effect of MAb treatment during acute HIV-1 infection is unknown. Here, we demonstrate that MAbs targeting the HIV-1 envelope glycoprotein both suppress acute SHIV plasma viremia and limit CD4 T cell-associated viral DNA. These findings provide support for clinical trials of MAbs as adjunctive therapy with antiretroviral therapy during acute HIV-1 infection.
PMCID: PMC4719604  PMID: 26581981
10.  HLA class II genes modulate vaccine-induced antibody responses to affect HIV-1 acquisition 
Science translational medicine  2015;7(296):296ra112.
In the RV144 vaccine trial, two antibody responses were found to correlate with HIV-1 acquisition. Because human leukocyte antigen (HLA) class II–restricted CD4+ T cells are involved in antibody production, we tested whether HLA class II genotypes affected HIV-1–specific antibody levels and HIV-1 acquisition in 760 individuals. Indeed, antibody responses correlated with acquisition only in the presence of single host HLA alleles. Envelope (Env)–specific immunoglobulin A (IgA) antibodies were associated with increased risk of acquisition specifically in individuals with DQB1*06. IgG antibody responses to Env amino acid positions 120 to 204 were higher and were associated with decreased risk of acquisition and increased vaccine efficacy only in the presence of DPB1*13. Screening IgG responses to overlapping peptides spanning Env 120–204 and viral sequence analysis of infected individuals defined differences in vaccine response that were associated with the presence of DPB1*13 and could be responsible for the protection observed. Overall, the underlying genetic findings indicate that HLA class II modulated the quantity, quality, and efficacy of antibody responses in the RV144 trial.
PMCID: PMC4911012  PMID: 26180102
11.  Sequential Dysfunction and Progressive Depletion of Candida albicans-Specific CD4 T Cell Response in HIV-1 Infection 
PLoS Pathogens  2016;12(6):e1005663.
Loss of immune control over opportunistic infections can occur at different stages of HIV-1 (HIV) disease, among which mucosal candidiasis caused by the fungal pathogen Candida albicans (C. albicans) is one of the early and common manifestations in HIV-infected human subjects. The underlying immunological basis is not well defined. We have previously shown that compared to cytomegalovirus (CMV)-specific CD4 cells, C. albicans-specific CD4 T cells are highly permissive to HIV in vitro. Here, based on an antiretroviral treatment (ART) naïve HIV infection cohort (RV21), we investigated longitudinally the impact of HIV on C. albicans- and CMV-specific CD4 T-cell immunity in vivo. We found a sequential dysfunction and preferential depletion for C. albicans-specific CD4 T cell response during progressive HIV infection. Compared to Th1 (IFN-γ, MIP-1β) functional subsets, the Th17 functional subsets (IL-17, IL-22) of C. albicans-specific CD4 T cells were more permissive to HIV in vitro and impaired earlier in HIV-infected subjects. Infection history analysis showed that C. albicans-specific CD4 T cells were more susceptible to HIV in vivo, harboring modestly but significantly higher levels of HIV DNA, than CMV-specific CD4 T cells. Longitudinal analysis of HIV-infected individuals with ongoing CD4 depletion demonstrated that C. albicans-specific CD4 T-cell response was preferentially and progressively depleted. Taken together, these data suggest a potential mechanism for earlier loss of immune control over mucosal candidiasis in HIV-infected patients and provide new insights into pathogen-specific immune failure in AIDS pathogenesis.
Author Summary
HIV infection is closely associated with enhanced host susceptibility to various opportunistic infections (OIs), among which mucosal candidiasis caused by the fungal pathogen Candida albicans (C. albicans) is an early and common manifestation. Even in the era of effective ART, mucosal candidiasis is still a clinically relevant presentation in HIV-infected patients. The underlying mechanisms are not well defined. CD4-mediated immunity is the major host defense mechanism against C. albicans. We here investigated a group of ART naïve, HIV-infected human subjects and examined longitudinally the impact of HIV on C. albicans-specific CD4 T-cell immunity as compared to CD4 T-cell immunity specific for CMV, another opportunistic pathogen that usually does not cause active disease in early HIV infection. We found that C. albicans-specific CD4 T cells were more susceptible to HIV in vivo and were preferentially depleted in progressive HIV-infected individuals as compared to CMV-specific CD4 T cells. Of importance, we also found that in these HIV-infected subjects C. albicans-specific CD4 T cell response manifested a sequential dysfunction with earlier impairment of Th17, but not Th1, functions. Our study suggests an immunological basis that helps explain the earlier and more common onsets of mucosal candidiasis in progressive HIV-infected patients.
PMCID: PMC4900544  PMID: 27280548
12.  Boosting with Subtype C CN54rgp140 Protein Adjuvanted with Glucopyranosyl Lipid Adjuvant after Priming with HIV-DNA and HIV-MVA Is Safe and Enhances Immune Responses: A Phase I Trial 
PLoS ONE  2016;11(5):e0155702.
A vaccine against HIV is widely considered the most effective and sustainable way of reducing new infections. We evaluated the safety and impact of boosting with subtype C CN54rgp140 envelope protein adjuvanted in glucopyranosyl lipid adjuvant (GLA-AF) in Tanzanian volunteers previously given three immunizations with HIV-DNA followed by two immunizations with recombinant modified vaccinia virus Ankara (HIV-MVA).
Forty volunteers (35 vaccinees and five placebo recipients) were given two CN54rgp140/GLA-AF immunizations 30–71 weeks after the last HIV-MVA vaccination. These immunizations were delivered intramuscularly four weeks apart.
The vaccine was safe and well tolerated except for one episode of asymptomatic hypoglycaemia that was classified as severe adverse event. Two weeks after the second HIV-MVA vaccination 34 (97%) of the 35 previously vaccinated developed Env-specific binding antibodies, and 79% and 84% displayed IFN-γ ELISpot responses to Gag and Env, respectively. Binding antibodies to subtype C Env (included in HIV-DNA and protein boost), subtype B Env (included only in HIV-DNA) and CRF01_AE Env (included only in HIV-MVA) were significantly boosted by the CN54rgp140/GLA-AF immunizations. Functional antibodies detected using an infectious molecular clone virus/peripheral blood mononuclear cell neutralization assay, a pseudovirus/TZM-bl neutralization assay or by assays for antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity (ADCC) were not significantly boosted. In contrast, T-cell proliferative responses to subtype B MN antigen and IFN-γ ELISpot responses to Env peptides were significantly enhanced. Four volunteers not primed with HIV-DNA and HIV-MVA before the CN54rgp140/GLA-AF immunizations mounted an antibody response, while cell-mediated responses were rare. After the two Env subtype C protein immunizations, a trend towards higher median subtype C Env binding antibody titers was found in vaccinees who had received HIV-DNA and HIV-MVA prior to the two Env protein immunizations as compared to unprimed vaccinees (p = 0.07).
We report excellent tolerability, enhanced binding antibody responses and Env-specific cell-mediated immune responses but no ADCC antibody increase after two immunizations with a subtype C rgp140 protein adjuvanted in GLA-AF in healthy volunteers previously immunized with HIV-DNA and HIV-MVA.
Trial Registration
International Clinical Trials Registry PACTR2010050002122368
PMCID: PMC4871571  PMID: 27192151
13.  HIV Type 1 Disease Progression to AIDS and Death in a Rural Ugandan Cohort Is Primarily Dependent on Viral Load Despite Variable Subtype and T-Cell Immune Activation Levels 
The Journal of Infectious Diseases  2014;211(10):1574-1584.
Background. Untreated human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV) infection is associated with persistent immune activation, which is an independent driver of disease progression in European and United States cohorts. In Uganda, HIV-1 subtypes A and D and recombinant AD viruses predominate and exhibit differential rates of disease progression.
Methods. HIV-1 seroconverters (n = 156) from rural Uganda were evaluated to assess the effects of T-cell activation, viral load, and viral subtype on disease progression during clinical follow-up.
Results. The frequency of activated T cells was increased in HIV-1–infected Ugandans, compared with community matched uninfected individuals, but did not differ significantly between viral subtypes. Higher HIV-1 load, subtype D, older age, and high T-cell activation levels were associated with faster disease progression to AIDS or death. In a multivariate Cox regression analysis, HIV-1 load was the strongest predictor of progression, with subtype also contributing. T-cell activation did not emerge an independent predictor of disease progression from this particular cohort.
Conclusions. These findings suggest that the independent contribution of T-cell activation on morbidity and mortality observed in European and North American cohorts may not be directly translated to the HIV epidemic in East Africa. In this setting, HIV-1 load appears to be the primary determinant of disease progression.
PMCID: PMC4425824  PMID: 25404522
HIV-1; AIDS; subtype D; immune activation; PD-1; viral load
14.  Broadly neutralizing antibody and the HIV reservoir in acute HIV infection: a strategy toward HIV remission? 
Current opinion in HIV and AIDS  2015;10(3):198-206.
Purpose of review
Infection of long-lived CD4+ T cells is a major obstacle to HIV remission, and antiretroviral therapy (ART) instituted during acute HIV infection restricts HIV reservoir establishment. Broadly neutralizing antibodies (bNAbs) may be employed in conjunction with early ART as strategies toward HIV remission.
Recent findings
Proof-of-concept studies in vitro and in animal models demonstrated bNAbs’ ability to block viral entry into cells, suppress viremia and reduce cell-associated viral DNA. Combination bNAbs were more effective than single bNAb in suppressing viremia. When bNAb was used with ART with or without combination latency reversing agents, it prevented viral rebound after ART interruption in at least half of the animals. In one study, macaques with low baseline viral load achieved viral remission even after the blood bNAb titer was no longer detected.
The acute HIV infection period represents a unique opportunity to explore the use of bNAbs with ART to limit the reservoir seeding that may enhance the chance of HIV remission. This article discusses the effects of early ART and bNAbs on HIV reservoirs and proposes research strategies in acute HIV infection aiming at HIV reservoir reduction and HIV remission.
PMCID: PMC4428158  PMID: 25700203
acute HIV infection; antibody; broadly neutralizing antibody; early antiretroviral therapy; HIV DNA; HIV reservoir; replication-competent virus
15.  HIV-1 infections with multiple founders are associated with higher viral loads than infections with single founders 
Nature medicine  2015;21(10):1139-1141.
Given the wide differences in HIV-1 viral load (VL) setpoint across subjects as opposed to fairly stable VL over time within an infected individual, it is important to identify host and viral characteristics that affect VL setpoint. While recently-infected individuals with multiple phylogenetically-linked HIV-1 founder variants represent a minority of HIV-1 infections, we found in two different cohorts that more diverse HIV-1 populations in early infection were associated with significantly higher VL one year after HIV-1 diagnosis.
PMCID: PMC4598284  PMID: 26322580
16.  Production of Mucosally Transmissible SHIV Challenge Stocks from HIV-1 Circulating Recombinant Form 01_AE env Sequences 
PLoS Pathogens  2016;12(2):e1005431.
Simian-human immunodeficiency virus (SHIV) challenge stocks are critical for preclinical testing of vaccines, antibodies, and other interventions aimed to prevent HIV-1. A major unmet need for the field has been the lack of a SHIV challenge stock expressing circulating recombinant form 01_AE (CRF01_AE) env sequences. We therefore sought to develop mucosally transmissible SHIV challenge stocks containing HIV-1 CRF01_AE env derived from acutely HIV-1 infected individuals from Thailand. SHIV-AE6, SHIV-AE6RM, and SHIV-AE16 contained env sequences that were >99% identical to the original HIV-1 isolate and did not require in vivo passaging. These viruses exhibited CCR5 tropism and displayed a tier 2 neutralization phenotype. These challenge stocks efficiently infected rhesus monkeys by the intrarectal route, replicated to high levels during acute infection, and established chronic viremia in a subset of animals. SHIV-AE16 was titrated for use in single, high dose as well as repetitive, low dose intrarectal challenge studies. These SHIV challenge stocks should facilitate the preclinical evaluation of vaccines, monoclonal antibodies, and other interventions targeted at preventing HIV-1 CRF01_AE infection.
Author Summary
In this study, we generated and evaluated novel simian-human immunodeficiency virus (SHIV) challenge stocks expressing env sequences from HIV-1 strains from Thailand. The lack of such SHIV challenge stocks has been a major unmet need for the field and has hindered progress to evaluate strategies aimed at preventing HIV-1 infection for this region of the world. The challenge stocks described in this manuscript should prove useful for studying the preclinical efficacy and mechanisms of vaccines, antibodies, and other interventions.
PMCID: PMC4743977  PMID: 26849216
17.  Cooperativity of HIV-Specific Cytolytic CD4 T Cells and CD8 T Cells in Control of HIV Viremia 
Journal of Virology  2015;89(15):7494-7505.
CD4+ T cells play a pivotal role in the control of chronic viral infections. Recently, nontraditional CD4+ T cell functions beyond helper effects have been described, and a role for cytolytic CD4+ T cells in the control of HIV infection has been suggested. We define here the transcriptional, phenotypic, and functional profiles of HIV-specific cytolytic CD4+ T cells. Fluidigm BioMark and multiparameter flow cytometric analysis of HIV-specific cytolytic CD4+ T cells revealed a distinct transcriptional signature compared to Th1 CD4+ cells but shared similar features with HIV-specific cytolytic CD8+ T cells. Furthermore, HIV-specific cytolytic CD4+ T cells showed comparable killing activity relative to HIV-specific CD8+ T cells and worked cooperatively in the elimination of virally infected cells. Interestingly, we found that cytolytic CD4+ T cells emerge early during acute HIV infection and tightly follow acute viral load trajectory. This emergence was associated to the early viral set point, suggesting an involvement in early control, in spite of CD4 T cell susceptibility to HIV infection. Our data suggest cytolytic CD4+ T cells as an independent subset distinct from Th1 cells that show combined activity with CD8+ T cells in the long-term control of HIV infection.
IMPORTANCE The ability of the immune system to control chronic HIV infection is of critical interest to both vaccine design and therapeutic approaches. Much research has focused on the effect of the ability of CD8+ T cells to control the virus, while CD4+ T cells have been overlooked as effectors in HIV control due to the fact that they are preferentially infected. We show here that a subset of HIV-specific CD4+ T cells cooperate in the cytolytic control of HIV replication. Moreover, these cells represent a distinct subset of CD4+ T cells showing significant transcriptional and phenotypic differences compared to HIV-specific Th1 cells but with similarities to CD8+ T cells. These findings are important for our understanding of HIV immunopathology.
PMCID: PMC4505667  PMID: 25972560
18.  Comparable Antigenicity and Immunogenicity of Oligomeric Forms of a Novel, Acute HIV-1 Subtype C gp145 Envelope for Use in Preclinical and Clinical Vaccine Research 
Journal of Virology  2015;89(15):7478-7493.
Eliciting broadly reactive functional antibodies remains a challenge in human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) vaccine development that is complicated by variations in envelope (Env) subtype and structure. The majority of new global HIV-1 infections are subtype C, and novel antigenic properties have been described for subtype C Env proteins. Thus, an HIV-1 subtype C Env protein (CO6980v0c22) from an infected person in the acute phase (Fiebig stage I/II) was developed as a research reagent and candidate immunogen. The gp145 envelope is a novel immunogen with a fully intact membrane-proximal external region (MPER), extended by a polylysine tail. Soluble gp145 was enriched for trimers that yielded the expected “fan blade” motifs when visualized by cryoelectron microscopy. CO6980v0c22 gp145 reacts with the 4E10, PG9, PG16, and VRC01 HIV-1 neutralizing monoclonal antibodies (MAbs), as well as the V1/V2-specific PGT121, 697, 2158, and 2297 MAbs. Different gp145 oligomers were tested for immunogenicity in rabbits, and purified dimers, trimers, and larger multimers elicited similar levels of cross-subtype binding and neutralizing antibodies to tier 1 and some tier 2 viruses. Immunized rabbit sera did not neutralize the highly resistant CO6980v0c22 pseudovirus but did inhibit the homologous infectious molecular clone in a peripheral blood mononuclear cell (PBMC) assay. This Env is currently in good manufacturing practice (GMP) production to be made available for use as a clinical research tool and further evaluation as a candidate vaccine.
IMPORTANCE At present, the product pipeline for HIV vaccines is insufficient and is limited by inadequate capacity to produce large quantities of vaccine to standards required for human clinical trials. Such products are required to evaluate critical questions of vaccine formulation, route, dosing, and schedule, as well as to establish vaccine efficacy. The gp145 Env protein presented in this study forms physical trimers, binds to many of the well-characterized broad neutralizing MAbs that target conserved Env epitopes, and induce cross-subtype neutralizing antibodies as measured in both cell line and primary cell assays. This subtype C Env gp145 protein is currently undergoing good manufacturing practice production for use as a reagent for preclinical studies and for human clinical research. This product will serve as a reagent for comparative studies and may represent a next-generation candidate HIV immunogen.
PMCID: PMC4505676  PMID: 25972551
19.  Sex and Urbanicity Contribute to Variation in Lymphocyte Distribution across Ugandan Populations 
PLoS ONE  2016;11(1):e0146196.
Management of patient care and interpretation of research data require evaluation of laboratory results in the context of reference data from populations with known health status to adequately diagnose disease or make a physiological assessment. Few studies have addressed the diversity of lymphocyte subsets in rural and urban Ugandan populations. Here, 663 healthy blood bank donors from semi-urban centers of Kampala consented to participate in a study to define lymphocyte reference ranges. Whole blood immunophenotyping was performed to determine the frequency and absolute counts of T, B, and NK cells using clinical flow cytometry. Results from blood bank donors were compared to a rural cohort from the district of Kayunga and more urban clinical trial participants from the capital city, Kampala. Relationships between hematological and lymphocyte parameters were also explored. In the semi-urban blood donors, females were significantly different from males in all parameters except the frequency of CD8 T and B cells. Females had higher absolute counts of CD4 T, CD8 T and B cells, whereas males had higher NK cell counts. NK cell frequency and counts were significantly higher in semi-urban blood donors, regardless of sex, compared to more urban study participants. CD8 T cell frequency and counts were significantly higher in the blood donors compared to the rural participants, irrespective of sex. Interestingly, basophil counts were positively associated with overall T cell counts. These findings suggest that both sex and level of cohort urbanicity may influence lymphocyte subset distributions in Ugandans.
PMCID: PMC4701131  PMID: 26730706
20.  COMPASS identifies T-cell subsets correlated with clinical outcomes 
Nature biotechnology  2015;33(6):610-616.
Advances in flow cytometry and other single-cell technologies have enabled high-dimensional, high-throughput measurements of individual cells and allowed interrogation of cell population heterogeneity. Computational tools to take full advantage of these technologies are lacking. Here, we present COMPASS, a computational framework for unbiased polyfunctionality analysis of antigen-specific T-cell subsets. COMPASS uses a Bayesian hierarchical framework to model all observed functional cell subsets and select those most likely to exhibit antigen-specific responses. Cell-subset responses are quantified by posterior probabilities, while subject-level responses are quantified by two novel summary statistics that can be correlated directly with clinical outcome, and describe the quality of an individual’s (poly)functional response. Using three clinical datasets of cytokine production we demonstrate how COMPASS improves characterization of antigen-specific T cells and reveals novel cellular correlates of protection in the RV144 HIV vaccine efficacy trial that are missed by other methods. COMPASS is available as open-source software.
PMCID: PMC4569006  PMID: 26006008
21.  Targeted deep sequencing of HIV-1 using the IonTorrentPGM platform 
The characterization of mixed HIV-1 populations is a key question in clinical and basic research settings. This can be achieved through targeted deep sequencing (TDS), where next-generation sequencing is used to examine in depth a sub-genomic region of interest. This study explores the suitability of IonTorrent PGM(LifeTechnologies) for the TDS-based analysis of HIV-1 evolution. Using laboratory reagents and primary specimens sampled at pre-peak viremia the error rates from misincorporation and in vitro recombination were<0.5%. The sequencing error rate was 2- to 3-fold higher in/around homopolymeric tracts, and could be discerned from true polymorphism using bidirectional sequencing. The limit of detection of complex variants was further lowered by using haplotyping. The application of this system was illustrated on primary samples from an individual infected with HIV-1 followed from pre-peak viremia through six months post-acquisition. TDS provided an augmented view of the extent of genetic diversity, the covariation among polymorphisms, the evolutionary pathways, and the boundaries of the mutational space explored by the viral swarm. Based on its performance, the system can be applied for the characterization of minor viral variants in support of studies of viral evolution, which can inform the rational design of the next generation of vaccines and therapeutics.
PMCID: PMC4219931  PMID: 24797459
targeted deep sequencing; next-generation sequencing; HIV-1; molecular evolution; IonTorrent
22.  Vaccine-induced Human Antibodies Specific for the Third Variable Region of HIV-1 gp120 Impose Immune Pressure on Infecting Viruses 
EBioMedicine  2014;1(1):37-45.
To evaluate the role of V3-specific IgG antibodies (Abs) in the RV144 clinical HIV vaccine trial, which reduced HIV-1 infection by 31.2%, the anti-V3 Ab response was assessed. Vaccinees’ V3 Abs were highly cross-reactive with cyclic V3 peptides (cV3s) from diverse virus subtypes. Sieve analysis of CRF01_AE breakthrough viruses from 43 vaccine- and 66 placebo-recipients demonstrated an estimated vaccine efficacy of 85% against viruses with amino acids mismatching the vaccine at V3 site 317 (p=0.004) and 52% against viruses matching the vaccine at V3 site 307 (p=0.004). This analysis was supported by data showing vaccinees’ plasma Abs were less reactive with I307 replaced with residues found more often in vaccinees’ breakthrough viruses. Simultaneously, viruses with mutations at F317 were less infectious, possibly due to the contribution of F317 to optimal formation of the V3 hydrophobic core. These data suggest that RV144-induced V3-specific Abs imposed immune pressure on infecting viruses and inform efforts to design an HIV vaccine.
PMCID: PMC4293639  PMID: 25599085
HIV; antibody; vaccine; clinical trial
23.  IgG Antibody Responses to Recombinant gp120 Proteins, gp70V1/V2 Scaffolds, and a CyclicV2 Peptide in Thai Phase I/II Vaccine Trials Using Different Vaccine Regimens 
AIDS Research and Human Retroviruses  2015;31(11):1178-1186.
RV144 correlates of risk analysis showed that IgG antibodies to gp70V1V2 scaffolds inversely correlated with risk of HIV acquisition. We investigated IgG antibody responses in RV135 and RV132, two ALVAC-HIV prime-boost vaccine trials conducted in Thailand prior to RV144. Both trials used ALVAC-HIV (vCP1521) at 0, 1, 3, and 6 months and HIV-1 gp120MNgD and gp120A244gD in alum (RV135) or gp120SF2 and gp120CM235 in MF59 (RV132) at 3 and 6 months. We assessed ELISA binding antibodies to the envelope proteins (Env) 92TH023, A244gD and MNgD, cyclicV2, and gp70V1V2 CaseA2 (subtype B) and 92TH023 (subtype CRF01_AE), and Env-specific IgG1 and IgG3. Antibody responses to gp120 A244gD, MNgD, and gp70V1V2 92TH023 scaffold were significantly higher in RV135 than in RV132. Antibodies to gp70V1V2 CaseA2 were detected only in RV135 vaccine recipients and IgG1 and IgG3 antibody responses to A244gD were significantly higher in RV135. IgG binding to gp70V1V2 CaseA2 and CRF01_AE scaffolds was higher with the AIDSVAX®B/E boost but both trials showed similar rates of antibody decline post-vaccination. MF59 did not result in higher IgG antibody responses compared to alum with the antigens tested. However, notable differences in the structure of the recombinant proteins and dosage used for immunizations may have contributed to the magnitude and specificity of IgG induced by the two trials.
PMCID: PMC4651018  PMID: 26234467
24.  Effect of rAd5-Vector HIV-1 Preventive Vaccines on HIV-1 Acquisition: A Participant-Level Meta-Analysis of Randomized Trials 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(9):e0136626.
Three phase 2b, double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized efficacy trials have tested recombinant Adenovirus serotype-5 (rAd5)-vector preventive HIV-1 vaccines: MRKAd5 HIV-1 gag/pol/nef in Step and Phambili, and DNA/rAd5 HIV-1 env/gag/pol in HVTN505. Due to efficacy futility observed at the first interim analysis in Step and HVTN505, participants of all three studies were unblinded to their vaccination assignments during the study but continued follow–up. Rigorous meta-analysis can provide crucial information to advise the future utility of rAd5-vector vaccines.
We included participant-level data from all three efficacy trials, and three Phase 1–2 trials evaluating the HVTN505 vaccine regimen. We predefined two co-primary analysis cohorts for assessing the vaccine effect on HIV-1 acquisition. The modified-intention-to-treat (MITT) cohort included all randomly assigned participants HIV-1 uninfected at study entry, who received at least the first vaccine/placebo, and the Ad5 cohort included MITT participants who received at least one dose of rAd5-HIV vaccine or rAd5-placebo. Multivariable Cox regression models were used to estimate hazard ratios (HRs) of HIV-1 infection (vaccine vs. placebo) and evaluate HR variation across vaccine regimens, time since vaccination, and subgroups using interaction tests.
Results are similar for the MITT and Ad5 cohorts; we summarize MITT cohort results. Pooled across the efficacy trials, over all follow-up time 403 (n = 224 vaccine; n = 179 placebo) of 6266 MITT participants acquired HIV-1, with a non-significantly higher incidence in vaccine recipients (HR 1.21, 95% CI 0.99–1.48, P = 0.06). The HRs significantly differed by vaccine regimen (interaction P = 0.03; MRKAd5 HR 1.41, 95% CI 1.11–1.78, P = 0.005 vs. DNA/rAd5 HR 0.88, 95% CI 0.61–1.26, P = 0.48). Results were similar when including the Phase 1–2 trials. Exploratory analyses based on the efficacy trials supported that the MRKAd5 vaccine-increased risk was concentrated in Ad5-positive or uncircumcised men early in follow-up, and in Ad5-negative or circumcised men later. Overall, MRKAd5 vaccine-increased risk was evident across subgroups except in circumcised Ad5-negative men (HR 0.97, 95% CI 0.58−1.63, P = 0.91); there was little evidence that the DNA/rAd5 vaccine, that was tested in this subgroup, increased risk (HR 0.88, 95% CI 0.61–1.26, P = 0.48). When restricting the analysis of Step and Phambili to follow-up time before unblinding, 114 (n = 65 vaccine; n = 49 placebo) of 3770 MITT participants acquired HIV-1, with a non-significantly higher incidence in MRKAd5 vaccine recipients (HR 1.30, 95% CI 0.89–1.14, P = 0.18).
Interpretation and Significance
The data support increased risk of HIV-1 infection by MRKAd5 over all follow-up time, but do not support increased risk of HIV-1 infection by DNA/rAd5. This study provides a rationale for including monitoring plans enabling detection of increased susceptibility to infection in HIV-1 at-risk populations.
PMCID: PMC4558095  PMID: 26332672
25.  The Number and Complexity of Pure and Recombinant HIV-1 Strains Observed within Incident Infections during the HIV and Malaria Cohort Study Conducted in Kericho, Kenya, from 2003 to 2006 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(8):e0135124.
Characterization of HIV-1 subtype diversity in regions where vaccine trials are conducted is critical for vaccine development and testing. This study describes the molecular epidemiology of HIV-1 within a tea-plantation community cohort in Kericho, Kenya. Sixty-three incident infections were ascertained in the HIV and Malaria Cohort Study conducted in Kericho from 2003 to 2006. HIV-1 strains from 58 of those individuals were full genome characterized and compared to two previous Kenyan studies describing 41 prevalent infections from a blood bank survey (1999–2000) and 21 infections from a higher-risk cohort containing a mix of incident and prevalent infections (2006). Among the 58 strains from the community cohort, 43.1% were pure subtypes (36.2% A1, 5.2% C, and 1.7% G) and 56.9% were inter-subtype recombinants (29.3% A1D, 8.6% A1CD, 6.9% A1A2D, 5.2% A1C, 3.4% A1A2CD, and 3.4% A2D). This diversity and the resulting genetic distance between the observed strains will need to be addressed when vaccine immunogens are chosen. In consideration of current vaccine development efforts, the strains from these three studies were compared to five candidate vaccines (each of which are viral vectored, carrying inserts corresponding to parts of gag, pol, and envelope), which have been developed for possible use in sub-Saharan Africa. The sequence comparison between the observed strains and the candidate vaccines indicates that in the presence of diverse recombinants, a bivalent vaccine is more likely to provide T-cell epitope coverage than monovalent vaccines even when the inserts of the bivalent vaccine are not subtype-matched to the local epidemic.
PMCID: PMC4543584  PMID: 26287814

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