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1.  Limited HIV-1 Superinfection in Seroconverters from the CAPRISA 004 Microbicide Trial 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2014;52(3):844-848.
HIV-1 superinfection (SI) occurs when an infected individual acquires a distinct new viral strain. The rate of superinfection may be reflective of the underlying HIV risk in a population. The Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA) 004 clinical trial demonstrated that women who used a tenofovir-containing microbicide gel had lower rates of HIV infection than women using a placebo gel. Women who contracted HIV-1 during the trial were screened for the occurrence of superinfection by next-generation sequencing of the viral gag and env genes. There were two cases (one in each trial arm) of subtype C superinfection identified from the 76 women with primary infection screened at two time points (rate of superinfection, 1.5/100 person-years). Both women experienced a >0.5-log increase in viral load during the window when superinfection occurred. The rate of superinfection was significantly lower than the overall primary HIV incidence in the microbicide trial (incidence rate ratio [IRR], 0.20; P = 0.003). The women who seroconverted during the trial reported a significant increase in sexual contact with their stable partner 4 months after seroconversion (P < 0.001), which may have lowered the risk of superinfection in this population. The lower frequency of SI compared to the primary incidence is in contrast to a report from a general heterosexual African population but agrees with a study of high-risk women in Kenya. A better understanding of the rate of HIV superinfection could have important implications for ongoing HIV vaccine research.
PMCID: PMC3957790  PMID: 24371237
2.  Differential Impact of Magnitude, Polyfunctional Capacity, and Specificity of HIV-Specific CD8+ T Cell Responses on HIV Set Point 
Journal of Virology  2014;88(3):1819-1824.
Defining the characteristics of HIV-specific CD8+ T cell responses that lead to viral control is crucial for vaccine development. We evaluated the differential impact of magnitude, polyfunctional capacity, and specificity of the CD8+ response at approximately 6 months postinfection on the viral set point at 12 months in a cohort of HIV-infected individuals. High frequencies of Gag and Nef responses endowed with four functions were the best predictors of a low viral set point.
PMCID: PMC3911608  PMID: 24227857
3.  Draft Genome Sequences of Geobacillus sp. Strains CAMR5420 and CAMR12739 
Genome Announcements  2014;2(3):e00567-14.
Thermophilic Geobacillus spp. can efficiently hydrolyze hemicellulose polymers and are therefore of interest in biotechnological applications. Here we report the genome sequences of two hemicellulolytic strains, Geobacillus sp. CAMR12739 and CAMR5420.
PMCID: PMC4047460  PMID: 24903881
4.  Rapid, complex adaption of transmitted HIV-1 full-length genomes in subtype C-infected individuals with differing disease progression 
AIDS (London, England)  2013;27(4):507-518.
There is limited information on full-length genome sequences and the early evolution of transmitted HIV-1 subtype C viruses, which constitute the majority of viruses spread in Africa. The purpose of this study was to characterize the earliest changes across the genome of subtype C viruses following transmission, to better understand early control of viremia.
We derived the near full-length genome sequence responsible for clinical infection from five HIV subtype C-infected individuals with different disease progression profiles and tracked adaption to immune responses in the first six months of infection.
Near full-length genomes were generated by single genome amplification and direct sequencing. Sequences were analyzed for amino acid mutations associated with cytotoxic T-lymphocyte (CTL) or antibody (Ab)-mediated immune pressure, and for reversion.
Fifty-five sequence changes associated with adaptation to the new host were identified with 38% attributed to CTL pressure; 35% to antibody pressure; 16% to reversions and the remainder were unclassified. Mutations in CTL epitopes were most frequent in the first 5 weeks of infection, with the frequency declining over time with the decline in viral load. CTL escape predominantly occurred in nef, followed by pol and env. Shuffling/toggling of mutations was identified in 81% of CTL epitopes with only 7% reaching fixation within the six month period.
There was rapid virus adaptation following transmission, predominantly driven by CTL pressure, with most changes occurring during high viremia. Rapid escape and complex escape pathways provide further challenges for vaccine protection.
PMCID: PMC3720865  PMID: 23370465
HIV-1; Africa; genome; acute infection; cytotoxic T-lymphocytes; progression
5.  Comparison of Viral Env Proteins from Acute and Chronic Infections with Subtype C Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 Identifies Differences in Glycosylation and CCR5 Utilization and Suggests a New Strategy for Immunogen Design 
Journal of Virology  2013;87(13):7218-7233.
Understanding human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) transmission is central to developing effective prevention strategies, including a vaccine. We compared phenotypic and genetic variation in HIV-1 env genes from subjects in acute/early infection and subjects with chronic infections in the context of subtype C heterosexual transmission. We found that the transmitted viruses all used CCR5 and required high levels of CD4 to infect target cells, suggesting selection for replication in T cells and not macrophages after transmission. In addition, the transmitted viruses were more likely to use a maraviroc-sensitive conformation of CCR5, perhaps identifying a feature of the target T cell. We confirmed an earlier observation that the transmitted viruses were, on average, modestly underglycosylated relative to the viruses from chronically infected subjects. This difference was most pronounced in comparing the viruses in acutely infected men to those in chronically infected women. These features of the transmitted virus point to selective pressures during the transmission event. We did not observe a consistent difference either in heterologous neutralization sensitivity or in sensitivity to soluble CD4 between the two groups, suggesting similar conformations between viruses from acute and chronic infection. However, the presence or absence of glycosylation sites had differential effects on neutralization sensitivity for different antibodies. We suggest that the occasional absence of glycosylation sites encoded in the conserved regions of env, further reduced in transmitted viruses, could expose specific surface structures on the protein as antibody targets.
PMCID: PMC3700278  PMID: 23616655
6.  Identification of broadly neutralizing antibody epitopes in the HIV-1 envelope glycoprotein using evolutionary models 
Virology Journal  2013;10:347.
Identification of the epitopes targeted by antibodies that can neutralize diverse HIV-1 strains can provide important clues for the design of a preventative vaccine.
We have developed a computational approach that can identify key amino acids within the HIV-1 envelope glycoprotein that influence sensitivity to broadly cross-neutralizing antibodies. Given a sequence alignment and neutralization titers for a panel of viruses, the method works by fitting a phylogenetic model that allows the amino acid frequencies at each site to depend on neutralization sensitivities. Sites at which viral evolution influences neutralization sensitivity were identified using Bayes factors (BFs) to compare the fit of this model to that of a null model in which sequences evolved independently of antibody sensitivity. Conformational epitopes were identified with a Metropolis algorithm that searched for a cluster of sites with large Bayes factors on the tertiary structure of the viral envelope.
We applied our method to ID50 neutralization data generated from seven HIV-1 subtype C serum samples with neutralization breadth that had been tested against a multi-clade panel of 225 pseudoviruses for which envelope sequences were also available. For each sample, between two and four sites were identified that were strongly associated with neutralization sensitivity (2ln(BF) > 6), a subset of which were experimentally confirmed using site-directed mutagenesis.
Our results provide strong support for the use of evolutionary models applied to cross-sectional viral neutralization data to identify the epitopes of serum antibodies that confer neutralization breadth.
PMCID: PMC4220805  PMID: 24295501
HIV; Antibodies; Neutralization sensitivity; Epitope prediction; Evolutionary model
7.  Multiple Pathways of Escape from HIV Broadly Cross-Neutralizing V2-Dependent Antibodies 
Journal of Virology  2013;87(9):4882-4894.
Broadly cross-neutralizing (BCN) antibodies are likely to be critical for an effective HIV vaccine. However, the ontogeny of such antibodies and their relationship with autologous viral evolution is unclear. Here, we characterized viral evolution in CAP256, a subtype C-infected individual who developed potent BCN antibodies targeting positions R166 and K169 in the V2 region. CAP256 was superinfected at 3 months postinfection with a virus that was highly sensitive to BCN V2-dependent monoclonal antibodies. The autologous neutralizing response in CAP256 was directed at V1V2, reaching extremely high titers (>1:40,000) against the superinfecting virus at 42 weeks, just 11 weeks prior to the development of the BCN response targeting the same region. Recombination between the primary and superinfecting viruses, especially in V2 and gp41, resulted in two distinct lineages by 4 years postinfection. Although neutralization of some CAP256 clones by plasma from as much as 2 years earlier suggested incomplete viral escape, nonetheless titers against later clones were reduced at least 40-fold to less than 1:1,000. Escape mutations were identified in each lineage, either at R166 or at K169, suggesting that strain-specific and BCN antibodies targeted overlapping epitopes. Furthermore, the early dependence of CAP256 neutralizing antibodies on the N160 glycan decreased with the onset of neutralization breadth, indicating a change in specificity. These data suggest rapid maturation, within 11 weeks, of CAP256 strain-specific antibodies to acquire breadth, with implications for the vaccine elicitation of BCN V2-dependent antibodies. Overall these studies demonstrate that ongoing viral escape is possible, even from BCN antibodies.
PMCID: PMC3624332  PMID: 23408621
8.  Viral Escape from HIV-1 Neutralizing Antibodies Drives Increased Plasma Neutralization Breadth through Sequential Recognition of Multiple Epitopes and Immunotypes 
PLoS Pathogens  2013;9(10):e1003738.
Identifying the targets of broadly neutralizing antibodies to HIV-1 and understanding how these antibodies develop remain important goals in the quest to rationally develop an HIV-1 vaccine. We previously identified a participant in the CAPRISA Acute Infection Cohort (CAP257) whose plasma neutralized 84% of heterologous viruses. In this study we showed that breadth in CAP257 was largely due to the sequential, transient appearance of three distinct broadly neutralizing antibody specificities spanning the first 4.5 years of infection. The first specificity targeted an epitope in the V2 region of gp120 that was also recognized by strain-specific antibodies 7 weeks earlier. Specificity for the autologous virus was determined largely by a rare N167 antigenic variant of V2, with viral escape to the more common D167 immunotype coinciding with the development of the first wave of broadly neutralizing antibodies. Escape from these broadly neutralizing V2 antibodies through deletion of the glycan at N160 was associated with exposure of an epitope in the CD4 binding site that became the target for a second wave of broadly neutralizing antibodies. Neutralization by these CD4 binding site antibodies was almost entirely dependent on the glycan at position N276. Early viral escape mutations in the CD4 binding site drove an increase in wave two neutralization breadth, as this second wave of heterologous neutralization matured to recognize multiple immunotypes within this site. The third wave targeted a quaternary epitope that did not overlap any of the four known sites of vulnerability on the HIV-1 envelope and remains undefined. Altogether this study showed that the human immune system is capable of generating multiple broadly neutralizing antibodies in response to a constantly evolving viral population that exposes new targets as a consequence of escape from earlier neutralizing antibodies.
Author Summary
Four sites of vulnerability for broadly neutralizing antibodies to HIV-1 have been identified thus far. How these broadly reactive antibodies arise, and the host-pathogen interactions that drive the affinity maturation necessary for neutralization breadth are poorly understood. This study details the sequential development of three distinct broadly neutralizing antibody responses within a single HIV-1 infected individual over 4.5 years of infection. We show how escape from the first wave of antibodies targeting V2 exposed a second site that was the stimulus for a new wave of glycan dependent broadly neutralizing antibodies against the CD4 binding site. These data highlight how antibody evolution in response to viral escape mutations served to broaden the host immune response to these two epitopes. Finally, we document a third wave of neutralization that targets an undefined epitope that did not appear to overlap with the four known sites of vulnerability on the HIV-1 envelope. These data support the design of templates for sequential immunization strategies aimed at increasing neutralization breadth through the recognition of multiple epitopes and their immunotypes.
PMCID: PMC3814426  PMID: 24204277
9.  No Evidence for Selection of HIV-1 with Enhanced Gag-Protease or Nef Function among Breakthrough Infections in the CAPRISA 004 Tenofovir Microbicide Trial 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e71758.
Use of antiretroviral-based microbicides for HIV-1 prophylaxis could introduce a transmission barrier that inadvertently facilitates the selection of fitter viral variants among incident infections. To investigate this, we assessed the in vitro function of gag-protease and nef sequences from participants who acquired HIV-1 during the CAPRISA 004 1% tenofovir microbicide gel trial.
Methods and Results
We isolated the earliest available gag-protease and nef gene sequences from 83 individuals and examined their in vitro function using recombinant viral replication capacity assays and surface protein downregulation assays, respectively. No major phylogenetic clustering and no significant differences in gag-protease or nef function were observed in participants who received tenofovir gel versus placebo gel prophylaxis.
Results indicate that the partial protective effects of 1% tenofovir gel use in the CAPRISA 004 trial were not offset by selection of transmitted/early HIV-1 variants with enhanced Gag-Protease or Nef fitness.
PMCID: PMC3756015  PMID: 24015191
10.  CAPRISA 004 Tenofovir Microbicide Trial: No Impact of Tenofovir Gel on the HIV Transmission Bottleneck 
Alterations of the genital mucosal barrier may influence the number of viruses transmitted from a human immunodeficiency virus–infected source host to the newly infected individual. We used heteroduplex tracking assay and single-genome sequencing to investigate the effect of a tenofovir-based microbicide gel on the transmission bottleneck in women who seroconverted during the CAPRISA 004 microbicide trial. Seventy-seven percent (17 of 22; 95% confidence interval [CI], 56%–90%) of women in the tenofovir gel arm were infected with a single virus compared with 92% (13 of 14; 95% CI, 67%–>99%) in the placebo arm (P = .37). Tenofovir gel had no discernable impact on the transmission bottleneck.
PMCID: PMC3415934  PMID: 22551813
11.  Symptomatic Vaginal Discharge Is a Poor Predictor of Sexually Transmitted Infections and Genital Tract Inflammation in High-Risk Women in South Africa 
Background. Diagnosis and treatment of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) is a public health priority, particularly in regions where the incidence of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection is high. In most developing countries, STIs are managed syndromically. We assessed the adequacy of syndromic diagnosis of STIs, compared with laboratory diagnosis of STIs, and evaluated the association between STI diagnosis and the risk of HIV acquisition in a cohort of high-risk women.
Methods. HIV-uninfected high-risk women (n = 242) were followed for 24 months. Symptoms of STIs were recorded, and laboratory diagnosis of common STI pathogens was conducted every 6 months. Forty-two cytokines were measured by Luminex in cervicovaginal lavage specimens at enrollment. Human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) infection was evaluated monthly.
Results. Only 12.3% of women (25 of 204) who had a laboratory-diagnosed, discharge-causing STI had clinically evident discharge. Vaginal discharge was thus a poor predictor of laboratory-diagnosed STIs (sensitivity, 12.3%; specificity, 93.8%). Cervicovaginal cytokine concentrations did not differ between women with asymptomatic STIs and those with symptomatic STIs and were elevated in women with asymptomatic STIs, compared with women with no STIs or bacterial vaginosis. Although laboratory-diagnosed STIs were associated with increased risk of HIV infection (hazard ratio, 3.3 [95% confidence interval, 1.5–7.2)], clinical symptoms were not.
Conclusions. Syndromic STI diagnosis dependent on vaginal discharge was poorly predictive of laboratory-diagnosed STI. Laboratory-diagnosed STIs were associated with increased susceptibility to HIV acquisition, while vaginal discharge was not.
PMCID: PMC3490689  PMID: 22517910
12.  Intersubtype Differences in the Effect of a Rare p24 Gag Mutation on HIV-1 Replicative Fitness 
Journal of Virology  2012;86(24):13423-13433.
Certain immune-driven mutations in HIV-1, such as those arising in p24Gag, decrease viral replicative capacity. However, the intersubtype differences in the replicative consequences of such mutations have not been explored. In HIV-1 subtype B, the p24Gag M250I mutation is a rare variant (0.6%) that is enriched among elite controllers (7.2%) (P = 0.0005) and appears to be a rare escape variant selected by HLA-B58 supertype alleles (P < 0.01). In contrast, in subtype C, it is a relatively common minor polymorphic variant (10 to 15%) whose appearance is not associated with a particular HLA allele. Using site-directed mutant viruses, we demonstrate that M250I reduces in vitro viral replicative capacity in both subtype B and subtype C sequences. However, whereas in subtype C downstream compensatory mutations at p24Gag codons 252 and 260 reduce the adverse effects of M250I, fitness costs in subtype B appear difficult to restore. Indeed, patient-derived subtype B sequences harboring M250I exhibited in vitro replicative defects, while those from subtype C did not. The structural implications of M250I were predicted by protein modeling to be greater in subtype B versus C, providing a potential explanation for its lower frequency and enhanced replicative defects in subtype B. In addition to accounting for genetic differences between HIV-1 subtypes, the design of cytotoxic-T-lymphocyte-based vaccines may need to account for differential effects of host-driven viral evolution on viral fitness.
PMCID: PMC3503133  PMID: 23015721
13.  Increased memory differentiation is associated with decreased polyfunctionality for HIV but not for CMV-specific CD8+ T cells 
The generation of polyfunctional CD8+ T cells, in response to vaccination or natural infection, has been associated with improved protective immunity. However, it is unclear whether the maintenance of polyfunctionality is related to particular cellular phenotypic characteristics. To determine whether the cytokine expression profile is linked to the memory differentiation stage, we analyzed the degree of polyfunctionality of HIV-specific CD8+ T cells within different memory subpopulations in 20 ART-naïve HIV-1 infected individuals at approximately 34 weeks post infection. These profiles were compared with CMV-specific CD8+ T cell responses in HIV-uninfected controls and in individuals chronically infected with HIV. Our results showed that the polyfunctional abilities of HIV-specific CD8+ T cells differed according to their memory phenotype. Early-differentiated cells (CD45RO+CD27+) exhibited a higher proportion of cells positive for three or four functions (p<0.001), and a lower proportion of mono-functional cells (p<0.001) compared to terminally-differentiated (CD45RO−CD27−) HIV-specific CD8+ T cells. The majority of terminally-differentiated HIV-specific CD8+ T cells were mono-functional (median 69% [IQR: 57–83]), producing predominantly CD107a or MIP1β. Moreover, proportions of HIV-specific mono-functional CD8+ T cells positively associated with proportions of terminally-differentiated HIV-specific CD8+ T cells (p=0.019, r=0.54). In contrast, CMV-specific CD8+ T cell polyfunctional capacities were similar across all memory subpopulations, with terminally- and early-differentiated cells endowed with comparable polyfunctionality. Overall, these data show that the polyfunctional abilities of HIV-specific CD8+ T cells are influenced by the stage of memory differentiation, which is not the case for CMV-specific responses.
PMCID: PMC3466366  PMID: 22966086
14.  Characterization of HIV-1 gag and nef in Cameroon: further evidence of extreme diversity at the origin of the HIV-1 group M epidemic 
Virology Journal  2013;10:29.
Cameroon, in west central Africa, has an extraordinary degree of HIV diversity, presenting a major challenge for the development of an effective HIV vaccine. Given the continuing need to closely monitor the emergence of new HIV variants in the country, we analyzed HIV-1 genetic diversity in 59 plasma samples from HIV-infected Cameroonian blood donors. Full length HIV gag and nef sequences were generated and phylogenetic analyses were performed.
All gag and nef sequences clustered within HIV-1M. Circulating recombinant form CRF02_AG predominated, accounting for 50% of the studied infections, followed by clade G (11%), clade D and CRF37_cpx (4% each), and clades A, F, CRF01_AE and CRF36_cpx (2% each). In addition, 22% of the studied viruses apparently had nef and gag genes from viruses belonging to different clades, with the majority (8/10) having either a nef or gag gene derived from CRF02_AG. Interestingly, five gag sequences (10%) and three (5%) nef sequences were neither obviously recombinant nor easily classifiable into any of the known HIV-1M clades.
This suggests the widespread existence of highly divergent HIV lineages in Cameroon. While the genetic complexity of the Cameroonian HIV-1 epidemic has potentially serious implications for the design of biomedical interventions, detailed analyses of divergent Cameroonian HIV-1M lineages could be crucial for dissecting the earliest evolutionary steps in the emergence of HIV-1M.
PMCID: PMC3560183  PMID: 23339631
HIV-1 diversity; West central Africa; RDP3; Maximum likelihood; PHYML
15.  Genital Tract Inflammation During Early HIV-1 Infection Predicts Higher Plasma Viral Load Set Point in Women 
The Journal of Infectious Diseases  2012;205(2):194-203.
Background. The biggest challenge in human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) prevention in Africa is the high HIV-1 burden in young women. In macaques, proinflammatory cytokine production in the genital tract is necessary for target cell recruitment and establishment of simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) infection following vaginal inoculation. The purpose of this study was to assess if genital inflammation during early HIV-1 infection predisposes women to rapid disease progression.
Methods. Inflammatory cytokine concentrations were measured in cervicovaginal lavage (CVL) from 49 women 6, 17, 30, and 55 weeks after HIV-1 infection and from 22 of these women before infection. Associations between genital inflammation and viral load set point and blood CD4 cell counts 12 months after infection were investigated.
Results. Elevated genital cytokine concentrations 6 and 17 weeks after HIV-1 infection were associated with higher viral load set points and, to a lesser extent, with CD4 depletion. CVL cytokine concentrations during early infection did not differ relative to preinfection but were elevated in women who had vaginal discharge, detectable HIV-1 RNA in their genital tracts, and lower blood CD4 counts.
Conclusion. Genital inflammation during early HIV-1 infection was associated with higher viral load set point and CD4 depletion, which are markers of rapid disease progression. Strategies aimed at reducing genital inflammation during early HIV-1 infection may slow disease progression.
PMCID: PMC3244362  PMID: 22190580
16.  Vertical T cell immunodominance and epitope entropy determine HIV-1 escape 
HIV-1 accumulates mutations in and around reactive epitopes to escape recognition and killing by CD8+ T cells. Measurements of HIV-1 time to escape should therefore provide information on which parameters are most important for T cell–mediated in vivo control of HIV-1. Primary HIV-1–specific T cell responses were fully mapped in 17 individuals, and the time to virus escape, which ranged from days to years, was measured for each epitope. While higher magnitude of an individual T cell response was associated with more rapid escape, the most significant T cell measure was its relative immunodominance measured in acute infection. This identified subject-level or “vertical” immunodominance as the primary determinant of in vivo CD8+ T cell pressure in HIV-1 infection. Conversely, escape was slowed significantly by lower population variability, or entropy, of the epitope targeted. Immunodominance and epitope entropy combined to explain half of all the variability in time to escape. These data explain how CD8+ T cells can exert significant and sustained HIV-1 pressure even when escape is very slow and that within an individual, the impacts of other T cell factors on HIV-1 escape should be considered in the context of immunodominance.
PMCID: PMC3533301  PMID: 23221345
17.  Evolution of an HIV glycan–dependent broadly neutralizing antibody epitope through immune escape 
Nature medicine  2012;18(11):1688-1692.
Neutralizing antibodies are likely to play a crucial part in a preventative HIV-1 vaccine. Although efforts to elicit broadly cross-neutralizing (BCN) antibodies by vaccination have been unsuccessful1-3, a minority of individuals naturally develop these antibodies after many years of infection4-7. How such antibodies arise, and the role of viral evolution in shaping these responses, is unknown. Here we show, in two HIV-1–infected individuals who developed BCN antibodies targeting the glycan at Asn332 on the gp120 envelope, that this glycan was absent on the initial infecting virus. However, this BCN epitope evolved within 6 months, through immune escape from earlier strain-specific antibodies that resulted in a shift of a glycan to position 332. Both viruses that lacked the glycan at amino acid 332 were resistant to the Asn332-dependent BCN monoclonal antibody PGT128 (ref. 8), whereas escaped variants that acquired this glycan were sensitive. Analysis of large sequence and neutralization data sets showed the 332 glycan to be significantly underrepresented in transmitted subtype C viruses compared to chronic viruses, with the absence of this glycan corresponding with resistance to PGT128. These findings highlight the dynamic interplay between early antibodies and viral escape in driving the evolution of conserved BCN antibody epitopes.
PMCID: PMC3494733  PMID: 23086475
18.  Short Communication Decreased Incidence of Dual Infections in South African Subtype C-Infected Women Compared to a Cohort Ten Years Earlier 
AIDS Research and Human Retroviruses  2011;27(11):1167-1172.
Previously, we determined the incidence of dual infections in a South African cohort and its association with higher viral setpoint. Ten years later, we compare the incidence and impact of dual infections at transmission on viral setpoint in a geographically similar cohort (n =  46) making use of both the heteroduplex mobility assay (HMA) and the more recent single genome amplification (SGA) approach. HIV incidence was lower in this cohort (7% compared to 18%), and we find a similar reduction in the number of dual infections (9% compared to 19%). Unlike the previous study, there was no association between either dual infection (n =  4) or multivariant transmission (n =  7) and disease progression. This study emphasized the importance of monitoring changes in the HIV epidemic as it may have important ramifications on our understanding of the natural history of disease.
PMCID: PMC3206740  PMID: 21198409
19.  HIV molecular epidemiology: transmission and adaptation to human populations 
Current Opinion in HIV and AIDS  2009;4(4):247-252.
Purpose of review
To provide an update on the origin of the HIV epidemic and insights into how the immune response is shaping virus evolution.
Recent findings
Characterization of archival samples showed that by the 1960s, HIV had already diverged within humans. It is now estimated that HIV has been in humans since at least the early 1900s. However, despite the potential for different divergent viruses to spread, surprisingly few viruses successfully expanded to cause the global epidemic. In approximately 80% of cases, productive infection is the result of infection with only a single virus or single virus-infected cell. After transmission, HIV evolves at a rapid rate driven by the immune pressure until the virus reaches a delicate survival balance: on one hand avoiding elimination through the development of cytotoxic T-cell immune escape mutations, and on the other sacrificing replication fitness as these mutations may come with a severe fitness cost to the virus. People infected with these ‘attenuated’ cytotoxic T-cell escape viruses can have a survival advantage. Cytotoxic T-cell responses are molding HIV diversity at a population level resulting in a loss of some of the common immune epitopes.
Insights into the origin of HIV and its evolution between populations and within individuals is essential to understanding HIV pathogenesis and imperative for the design of effective biomedical interventions such as vaccines.
PMCID: PMC3351078  PMID: 19532060
CTL escape; HIV evolution; origin; pathogenesis; reversion; transmission
20.  The HIV-1 Epidemic: Low- to Middle-Income Countries 
Low- to middle-income countries bear the overwhelming burden of the human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) epidemic in terms of the numbers of their citizens living with HIV/AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome), the high degrees of viral diversity often involving multiple HIV-1 clades circulating within their populations, and the social and economic factors that compromise current control measures. Distinct epidemics have emerged in different geographical areas. These epidemics differ in their severity, the population groups they affect, their associated risk behaviors, and the viral strains that drive them. In addition to inflicting great human cost, the high burden of HIV infection has a major impact on the social and economic development of many low- to middle-income countries. Furthermore, the high degrees of viral diversity associated with multiclade HIV epidemics impacts viral diagnosis and pathogenicity and treatment and poses daunting challenges for effective vaccine development.
A human immunodeficiency type 1 vaccine may be the most effective method of controlling the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome pandemic. However, the higher degrees of viral diversity in lower-income countries may undermine vaccine development efforts.
PMCID: PMC3282497  PMID: 22393534
21.  The Neutralization Breadth of HIV-1 Develops Incrementally over Four Years and Is Associated with CD4+ T Cell Decline and High Viral Load during Acute Infection ▿  
Journal of Virology  2011;85(10):4828-4840.
An understanding of how broadly neutralizing activity develops in HIV-1-infected individuals is needed to guide vaccine design and immunization strategies. Here we used a large panel of 44 HIV-1 envelope variants (subtypes A, B, and C) to evaluate the presence of broadly neutralizing antibodies in serum samples obtained 3 years after seroconversion from 40 women enrolled in the CAPRISA 002 acute infection cohort. Seven of 40 participants had serum antibodies that neutralized more than 40% of viruses tested and were considered to have neutralization breadth. Among the samples with breadth, CAP257 serum neutralized 82% (36/44 variants) of the panel, while CAP256 serum neutralized 77% (33/43 variants) of the panel. Analysis of longitudinal samples showed that breadth developed gradually starting from year 2, with the number of viruses neutralized as well as the antibody titer increasing over time. Interestingly, neutralization breadth peaked at 4 years postinfection, with no increase thereafter. The extent of cross-neutralizing activity correlated with CD4+ T cell decline, viral load, and CD4+ T cell count at 6 months postinfection but not at later time points, suggesting that early events set the stage for the development of breadth. However, in a multivariate analysis, CD4 decline was the major driver of this association, as viral load was not an independent predictor of breadth. Mapping of the epitopes targeted by cross-neutralizing antibodies revealed that in one individual these antibodies recognized the membrane-proximal external region (MPER), while in two other individuals, cross-neutralizing activity was adsorbed by monomeric gp120 and targeted epitopes that involved the N-linked glycan at position 332 in the C3 region. Serum antibodies from the other four participants targeted quaternary epitopes, at least 2 of which were PG9/16-like and depended on the N160 and/or L165 residue in the V2 region. These data indicate that fewer than 20% of HIV-1 subtype C-infected individuals develop antibodies with cross-neutralizing activity after 3 years of infection and that these antibodies target different regions of the HIV-1 envelope, including as yet uncharacterized epitopes.
PMCID: PMC3126191  PMID: 21389135
22.  Intra- and Inter-clade Cross-reactivity by HIV-1 Gag Specific T-Cells Reveals Exclusive and Commonly Targeted Regions: Implications for Current Vaccine Trials 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(10):e26096.
The genetic diversity of HIV-1 across the globe is a major challenge for developing an HIV vaccine. To facilitate immunogen design, it is important to characterize clusters of commonly targeted T-cell epitopes across different HIV clades. To address this, we examined 39 HIV-1 clade C infected individuals for IFN-γ Gag-specific T-cell responses using five sets of overlapping peptides, two sets matching clade C vaccine candidates derived from strains from South Africa and China, and three peptide sets corresponding to consensus clades A, B, and D sequences. The magnitude and breadth of T-cell responses against the two clade C peptide sets did not differ, however clade C peptides were preferentially recognized compared to the other peptide sets. A total of 84 peptides were recognized, of which 19 were exclusively from clade C, 8 exclusively from clade B, one peptide each from A and D and 17 were commonly recognized by clade A, B, C and D. The entropy of the exclusively recognized peptides was significantly higher than that of commonly recognized peptides (p = 0.0128) and the median peptide processing scores were significantly higher for the peptide variants recognized versus those not recognized (p = 0.0001). Consistent with these results, the predicted Major Histocompatibility Complex Class I IC50 values were significantly lower for the recognized peptide variants compared to those not recognized in the ELISPOT assay (p<0.0001), suggesting that peptide variation between clades, resulting in lack of cross-clade recognition, has been shaped by host immune selection pressure. Overall, our study shows that clade C infected individuals recognize clade C peptides with greater frequency and higher magnitude than other clades, and that a selection of highly conserved epitope regions within Gag are commonly recognized and give rise to cross-clade reactivities.
PMCID: PMC3192159  PMID: 22022524
23.  Potent and Broad Neutralization of HIV-1 Subtype C by Plasma Antibodies Targeting a Quaternary Epitope Including Residues in the V2 Loop▿  
Journal of Virology  2011;85(7):3128-3141.
The targets of broadly cross-neutralizing (BCN) antibodies are of great interest in the HIV vaccine field. We have identified a subtype C HIV-1-superinfected individual, CAP256, with high-level BCN activity, and characterized the antibody specificity mediating breadth. CAP256 developed potent BCN activity peaking at 3 years postinfection, neutralizing 32 (76%) of 42 heterologous viruses, with titers of antibodies against some viruses exceeding 1:10,000. CAP256 showed a subtype bias, preferentially neutralizing subtype C and A viruses over subtype B viruses. CAP256 BCN serum targeted a quaternary epitope which included the V1V2 region. Further mapping identified residues F159, N160, L165, R166, D167, K169, and K171 (forming the FN/LRD-K-K motif) in the V2 region as crucial to the CAP256 epitope. However, the fine specificity of the BCN response varied over time and, while consistently dependent on R166 and K169, became gradually less dependent on D167 and K171, possibly contributing to the incremental increase in breadth over 4 years. The presence of an intact FN/LRD-K-K motif in heterologous viruses was associated with sensitivity, although the length of the adjacent V1 loop modulated the degree of sensitivity, with a shorter V1 region significantly associated with higher titers. Repair of the FN/LRD-K-K motif in resistant heterologous viruses conferred sensitivity, with titers sometimes exceeding 1:10,000. Comparison of the CAP256 epitope with that of the PG9/PG16 monoclonal antibodies suggested that these epitopes overlapped, adding to the mounting evidence that this may represent a common neutralization target that should be further investigated as a potential vaccine candidate.
PMCID: PMC3067856  PMID: 21270156
24.  Viral and host factors associated with the HIV-1 viral load setpoint in adults from Mbeya Region, Tanzania 
The viral load setpoint (VLS) is an important predictor of HIV disease progression, but there is a lack of information regarding the VLS and its possible determinants in African populations.
Initially HIV negative adults from three distinct groups (female barworkers, females and males from the general population) were followed for up to four years. The VLS was calculated for 108 seroconverters and associations of the VLS with possible risk factors were analyzed using univariate and multivariate regression.
The median VLS for female barworkers, females and males from the general population were 69,850, 28,600 and 158,000 RNA copies/ml respectively. Significant associations with an elevated viral load were observed for male gender (Risk Ratio (RR)=1.83, 95% confidence interval (95%CI)=1.14–2.93), the expression of harmful HLA I alleles (RR=1.73, 95%CI=1.13–2.66) and multiple infection with different HIV-1 subtypes (RR=1.65, 95%CI =1.03–2.66). Barworkers were considerably more often infected with different HIV-1 subtypes than participants from the general population.
Our study confirms that gender and the expression of different HLA class I alleles are important determinants of the viremia at VLS and it also corroborates an earlier finding that multiple infection with different HIV-1 subtypes is associated with a higher VLS.
PMCID: PMC2958061  PMID: 20632457
HIV-1 infection; Acute infection; Viral load setpoint; Multiple infection; HLA class I alleles; Africa
25.  A novel candidate HIV vaccine vector based on the replication deficient Capripoxvirus, Lumpy skin disease virus (LSDV) 
Virology Journal  2011;8:265.
The Capripoxvirus, Lumpy skin disease virus (LSDV) has a restricted host-range and is being investigated as a novel HIV-1 vaccine vector. LSDV does not complete its replication cycle in non-ruminant hosts.
The safety of LSDV was tested at doses of 104 and 106 plaque forming units in two strains of immunocompromised mice, namely RAG mice and CD4 T cell knockout mice. LSDV expressing HIV-1 subtype C Gag, reverse transcriptase (RT), Tat and Nef as a polyprotein (Grttn), (rLSDV-grttn), was constructed. The immunogenicity of rLSDV-grttn was tested in homologous prime-boost regimens as well as heterologous prime-boost regimes in combination with a DNA vaccine (pVRC-grttn) or modified vaccinia Ankara vaccine (rMVA-grttn) both expressing Grttn.
Safety was demonstrated in two strains of immunocompromised mice.
In the immunogenicity experiments mice developed high magnitudes of HIV-specific cells producing IFN-gamma and IL-2. A comparison of rLSDV-grttn and rMVA-grttn to boost a DNA vaccine (pVRC-grttn) indicated a DNA prime and rLSDV-grttn boost induced a 2 fold (p < 0.01) lower cumulative frequency of Gag- and RT-specific IFN-γ CD8 and CD4 cells than a boost with rMVA-grttn. However, the HIV-specific cells induced by the DNA vaccine prime rLSDV-grttn boost produced greater than 3 fold (p < 0.01) more IFN- gamma than the HIV-specific cells induced by the DNA vaccine prime rMVA-grttn boost. A boost of HIV-specific CD4 cells producing IL-2 was only achieved with the DNA vaccine prime and rLSDV-grttn boost. Heterologous prime-boost combinations of rLSDV-grttn and rMVA-grttn induced similar cumulative frequencies of IFN- gamma producing Gag- and RT-specific CD8 and CD4 cells. A significant difference (p < 0.01) between the regimens was the higher capacity (2.1 fold) of Gag-and RT-specific CD4 cells to produce IFN-γ with a rMVA-grttn prime - rLSDV-grttn boost. This regimen also induced a 1.5 fold higher (p < 0.05) frequency of Gag- and RT-specific CD4 cells producing IL-2.
LSDV was demonstrated to be non-pathogenic in immunocompromised mice. The rLSDV-grttn vaccine was immunogenic in mice particularly in prime-boost regimens. The data suggests that this novel vaccine may be useful for enhancing, in particular, HIV-specific CD4 IFN- gamma and IL-2 responses induced by a priming vaccine.
PMCID: PMC3117847  PMID: 21624130

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