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J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr. 2009 Aug 15;51(5):530-5. doi: 10.1097/QAI.0b013e3181aac516.

Molecular epidemiological study of HIV-1 CRF01_AE transmission in Hong Kong.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology, Queen Mary Hospital, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China.



The objective of this study was to investigate the transmission history of the HIV-1 CRF01_AE epidemics in Hong Kong between 1994 and 2007.


A total of 465 HIV-1 CRF01_AE pol sequences were derived from an in-house or a commercial HIV-1 genotyping system. Phylogenies of CRF01_AE sequences were analyzed by the Bayesian coalescent method.


CRF01_AE patient population included 363 males (78.1%) and 102 females (21.9%), whereas 65% (314 of 465) were local Chinese. Major transmission routes were heterosexual contact (63%), followed by intravenous drug use (IDU) (19%) and men having sex with men (MSM) (17%). From phylogenetic analysis, local CRF01_AE strains were from multiple origins with 3 separate transmission clusters identified. Cluster 1 consisted mainly of Chinese male IDUs and heterosexuals. Clusters 2 and 3 included mainly local Chinese MSM and non-Chinese Asian IDUs, respectively. Chinese reference isolates available from China (Fujian, Guangxi, or Liaoning) were clonally related to our transmission clusters, demonstrating the epidemiological linkage of CRF01_AE infections between Hong Kong and China. The 3 individual local transmission clusters were estimated to have initiated since late 1980s and late 1990s, causing subsequent epidemics in the early 2000s.


This is the first comprehensive molecular epidemiological study of HIV-1 CRF01_AE in Hong Kong. It revealed that MSM contact is becoming a major route of local CRF01_AE transmission in Hong Kong. Epidemiological linkage of CRF01_AE between Hong Kong and China observed in this study indicates the importance of regular molecular epidemiological surveillance for the HIV-1 epidemic in our region.

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