Transmission of single and multiple viral variants in primary HIV-1 subtype C infection.


To address whether sequences of viral gag and env quasispecies collected during the early post-acute period can be utilized to determine multiplicity of transmitted HIV's, recently developed approaches for analysis of viral evolution in acute HIV-1 infection [1,2] were applied. Specifically, phylogenetic reconstruction, inter- and intra-patient distribution of maximum and mean genetic distances, analysis of Poisson fitness, shape of highlighter plots, recombination analysis, and estimation of time to the most recent common ancestor (tMRCA) were utilized for resolving multiplicity of HIV-1 transmission in a set of viral quasispecies collected within 50 days post-seroconversion (p/s) in 25 HIV-infected individuals with estimated time of seroconversion. The decision on multiplicity of HIV infection was made based on the model's fit with, or failure to explain, the observed extent of viral sequence heterogeneity. The initial analysis was based on phylogeny, inter-patient distribution of maximum and mean distances, and Poisson fitness, and was able to resolve multiplicity of HIV transmission in 20 of 25 (80%) cases. Additional analysis involved distribution of individual viral distances, highlighter plots, recombination analysis, and estimation of tMRCA, and resolved 4 of the 5 remaining cases. Overall, transmission of a single viral variant was identified in 16 of 25 (64%) cases, and transmission of multiple variants was evident in 8 of 25 (32%) cases. In one case multiplicity of HIV-1 transmission could not be determined. In primary HIV-1 subtype C infection, samples collected within 50 days p/s and analyzed by a single-genome amplification/sequencing technique can provide reliable identification of transmission multiplicity in 24 of 25 (96%) cases. Observed transmission frequency of a single viral variant and multiple viral variants were within the ranges of 64% to 68%, and 32% to 36%, respectively.

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