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Nat Med. 2000 Jan;6(1):71-5.

Gender differences in HIV-1 diversity at time of infection.

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Division of Human Biology, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, Washington, USA.


To develop an HIV-1 vaccine with global efficacy, it is important to identify and characterize the viruses that are transmitted, particularly to individuals living in areas of high incidence. Several studies have shown that virus from the blood of acutely infected adults was homogeneous, even when the virus population in the index case was genetically diverse. In contrast to those results with mainly male cohorts in America and Europe, in several cases a heterogeneous virus population has been found early in infection in women in Africa. Thus, we more closely compared the diversity of transmitted HIV-1 in men and women who became infected through heterosexual contact. We found that women from Kenya were often infected by multiple virus variants, whereas men from Kenya were not. Moreover, a heterogeneous virus was present in the women before their seroconversion, and in each woman it was derived from a single index case, indicating that diversity was most likely to be the result of transmission of multiple variants. Our data indicate that there are important differences in the transmitted virus populations in women and men, even when cohorts from the same geographic region who are infected with the same subtypes of HIV-1 are compared.

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