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J Virol. 2005 Sep;79(18):11693-704.

In-depth analysis of a heterosexually acquired human immunodeficiency virus type 1 superinfection: evolution, temporal fluctuation, and intercompartment dynamics from the seronegative window period through 30 months postinfection.

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  • 1US Military HIV Research Program, 1600 E. Gude Drive, Rockville, MD 20850, USA.


Human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) superinfection refers to the acquisition of another strain by an already infected individual. Here we report a comprehensive genetic analysis of an HIV-1 superinfection acquired heterosexually. The infected individual was in a high-risk cohort in Tanzania, was exposed to multiple subtypes, and was systematically evaluated every 3 months with a fluorescent multi-region genotyping assay. The subject was identified in the window period and was first infected with a complex ACD recombinant strain, became superinfected 6 to 9 months later with an AC recombinant, and was monitored for >2.5 years. The plasma viral load exceeded 400,000 copies/ml during the first 9 months of infection but resolved to the set point of 67,000 copies/ml by 3 months after superinfection; the CD4 cell count was 377 cells/mul at 30 months. Viral diversity was evaluated with techniques designed to fully sample the quasi-species, permitting direct observation of the evolution, temporal fluctuation, and intercompartment dynamics of the initial and superinfecting strains and recombinants derived from them. Within 3 months of superinfection, seven different molecular forms were detected in gag and six were detected in env. The proportions of forms fluctuated widely over time in plasma and peripheral blood mononuclear cells, illustrating how challenging the detection of dually infected individuals can be. Strain-specific nested PCR confirmed that the superinfecting strain was not present until the 9 month follow-up. This study further defines the parameters and dynamics of superinfection and will foster appropriate studies and approaches to gain a more complete understanding of risk factors for superinfection and its impact on clinical progression, epidemiology, and vaccine design.

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