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Retrovirology. 2006 Jul 3;3:40.

The predominance of Human Immunodeficiency Virus type 1 (HIV-1) circulating recombinant form 02 (CRF02_AG) in West Central Africa may be related to its replicative fitness.

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HIV and Retrovirology Research Unit, Department of Microbiology, Institute of Tropical Medicine, 155 Nationalestraat, B-2000 Antwerp, Belgium.



CRF02_AG is the predominant HIV strain circulating in West and West Central Africa. The aim of this study was to test whether this predominance is associated with a higher in vitro replicative fitness relative to parental subtype A and G viruses. Primary HIV-1 isolates (10 CRF02_AG, 5 subtype A and 5 subtype G) were obtained from a well-described Cameroonian cohort. Growth competition experiments were carried out at equal multiplicity of infection in activated T cells and monocyte-derived dendritic cells (MO-DC) in parallel.


Dual infection/competition experiments in activated T cells clearly indicated that CRF02_AG isolates had a significant replication advantage over the subtype A and subtype G viruses. The higher fitness of CRF02_AG was evident for isolates from patients with CD4+ T cell counts >200 cells/microL (non-AIDS) or CD4+ T cell counts <200 cells/microL (AIDS), and was independent of the co-receptor tropism. In MO-DC cultures, CRF02_AG isolates showed a slightly but not significantly higher replication advantage compared to subtype A or G isolates.


We observed a higher ex vivo replicative fitness of CRF02_AG isolates compared to subtype A and G viruses from the same geographic region and showed that this was independent of the co-receptor tropism and irrespective of high or low CD4+ T cell count. This advantage in replicative fitness may contribute to the dominant spread of CRF02_AG over A and G subtypes in West and West Central Africa.

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