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J Virol. 2000 Dec;74(23):11286-95.

A recent outbreak of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 infection in southern China was initiated by two highly homogeneous, geographically separated strains, circulating recombinant form AE and a novel BC recombinant.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology, The Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland 21205, USA.


New outbreaks of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) among injecting drug users (IDUs) are spreading in China along heroin trafficking routes. Recently, two separate HIV-1 epidemics among IDUs were reported in Guangxi, Southern China, where partial sequencing of the env gene showed subtype C and circulating recombinant form (CRF) AE. We evaluated five virtually full-length HIV-1 genome sequences from IDUs in Guangxi to determine the genetic diversity and the presence of intersubtype recombinants. Sequence analysis showed two geographically separated, highly homogeneous HIV-1 strains. B/C intersubtype recombinants were found in three IDUs from Baise City, in a mountainous region near the Yunnan-Guangxi border. These were mostly subtype C, with portions of the capsid and reverse transcriptase (RT) genes from subtype B. The subtype B portion of the capsid was located in the N-terminal domain, which has been shown to influence virus core maturation, virus infectivity, and binding to cyclophilin A, whereas the subtype B portion of RT was located in the palm subdomain, which is the active site of the enzyme. These BC recombinants differed from a BC recombinant found in Xinjiang Province in northwestern China. CRF AE strains were found in IDUs from Nanning, the capital of Guangxi, and in IDUs from Pingxiang City near the China-Vietnam border. The AE and BC recombinants were both remarkable for their low interpatient diversity, less than 1% for the full genome. Rapid spread of HIV-1 among IDUs may foster the emergence of highly homogeneous strains, including novel recombinants in regions with multiple subtypes.

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