A distinctive clade B HIV type 1 is heterosexually transmitted in Trinidad and Tobago.
HIV-1 transmission worldwide is predominantly associated with heterosexual activity, and non-clade B viruses account for the most spread. The HIV-1 epidemic in Trinidad/Tobago and the Caribbean shares many features with such heterosexual epidemics, including a prominent role for coincident sexually transmitted diseases. This study evaluates the molecular epidemiology of HIV-1 in Trinidad/Tobago during a period when abrupt transition from homosexual to heterosexual transmission occurred in the absence of injecting drug use, concomitant with a rapid rise in HIV-1 prevalence in the heterosexual population. Of 31 viral isolates studied during 1987-1995, all cluster with subtype B reference strains. In the analysis of full env genes from 22 early seroconverters, the Trinidad isolates constitute a significant subcluster within the B subtype. The Trinidad V3 consensus sequence differs by a single amino acid from the prototype B V3 consensus and demonstrates stability over the decade of this study. In the majority of isolates, the V3 loop of env contains a signature threonine deletion that marks the lineage of the Trinidad HIV-1 clade B epidemic from pre-1984. No phenotypic features, including syncitium induction, neutralization profiles, and chemokine receptor usage, distinguish this virus population from other subtype B viruses. Thus, although the subtype B HIV-1 viruses being transmitted in Trinidad are genetically distinguishable from other subtype B viruses, this is probably the result of a strong founder effect in a geographically circumscribed population rather than genetic selection for heterosexual transmission. These results demonstrate that canonical clade B HIV-1 can generate a typical heterosexual epidemic.
Cleghorn, FR; Jack, N; Carr, JK; Edwards, J; Mahabir, B; Sill, A; McDanal, CB; Connolly, SM; Goodman, D; Bennetts, RQ; O'Brien, TR; Weinhold, KJ; Bartholomew, C; Blattner, WA; Greenberg, ML
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