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Infect Genet Evol. 2009 Jul;9(4):672-82. doi: 10.1016/j.meegid.2008.05.003. Epub 2008 May 9.

Highly divergent subtypes and new recombinant forms prevail in the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Angola: new insights into the origins of the AIDS pandemic.

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  • 1URIA, Centro de Patogénese Molecular, Faculdade de Farmácia de Lisboa, Portugal.


Angola, located in South-Western Africa, has a remarkably low HIV/AIDS prevalence in the adult population (3.7%). It is bordered in the North by the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Republic of Congo that are at the origin of human HIV-1 infections. It is, therefore, likely that HIV-1 strains circulating in Angola are genetically diverse and representative of the origin of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The aim of this work was to investigate in detail the genetic diversity and molecular epidemiology of HIV-1 in Angola. Almost 400 sequences were obtained from the gag (p17), pol (PR and RT) and/or env (C2C3) genes of 159 HIV-1 infected patients living in eight provinces of Angola (Benguela, Cabinda, Cuanza Norte, Luanda, Lunda Norte, Malange, Uíge, and Zaire) and their genotype was determined by phylogenetic analyses. Gene regions representing all HIV-1 group M clades were found as well as unclassifiable sequences. In env and pol (RT), two groups of sequences forming distinct sub-clusters within the subtype A radiation were found and may define new A5 and A6 sub-subtypes. Recombinant forms were found in almost half (47.1%) of the patients of which 36.0% were second-generation recombinants. Fifty-eight different patterns of recombination were found. The A subtype, including CRF02_AG, was represented in most recombinant viruses. Epidemiological data suggests that the AIDS epidemic in Angola has probably started as early as 1961, the major cause being the independence war, and spread to Portugal soon thereafter. The extraordinary degree of HIV-1 group M genetic diversity and evolution in Angola may pose unprecedented challenges to diagnostic, treatment and prevention of HIV-1 infection.

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