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Analysis of the Origin and Dissemination of HIV-1 Subtype C in Bulgaria.

Abstract

HIV-1 subtype C is the most abundant strain of HIV-1 infections worldwide and was found in the first known patients diagnosed with HIV/AIDS in Bulgaria in 1986. However, there is limited information on the molecular-epidemiological characteristics of this strain in the epidemic of the country. In this study, we analyze the evolutionary history of the introduction and dissemination of HIV-1 subtype C in Bulgaria using global phylogenetic analysis, Bayesian coalescent-based approach, and molecular clock methods. All available samples with HIV-1 subtype C from individuals diagnosed with HIV/AIDS between 1986 and 2017 were analyzed. Men and women were equally represented, and 24.3% of patients reported being infected abroad. The global phylogenetic analysis indicated multiple introductions of HIV-1 subtype C from various countries of the world. The reconstruction of a Bayesian time-scaled phylogenies showed that several Bulgarian strains segregated together in clusters, while others were intermixed in larger clades containing strains isolated from both European and non-European countries. The time-scale of HIV-1 subtype C introductions in Bulgaria demonstrates the early introduction of these viruses in the country. Our in-depth phylogenetic and phylogeographic analyses are compatible with a scenario of multiple early introductions in the country followed by limited local distribution in the subsequent years. HIV-1 subtype C was introduced in the early years of the epidemic, originating from different countries of the world. Due to the comprehensive measures for prevention and control in the early years of the epidemic in Bulgaria, HIV-1 subtype C was not widely disseminated among the general population of the country.

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