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Emergence of HIV-1 CRF01_AE/B unique recombinant forms in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Tee, Kok Keng; Pon, Chee Keong; Kamarulzaman, Adeebaa; Ng, Kee Peng

Basic Science

Objectives: To investigate the molecular epidemiology of HIV-1 and to screen for the emergence of intersubtype recombinants in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Design: A molecular epidemiology study was conducted among HIV-1 seropositive patients attending the University Malaya Medical Center (UMMC) from July 2003 to June 2004.

Methods: Protease (PR) and reverse transcriptase (RT) gene sequences were derived from drug resistance genotyping assay of 100 newly diagnosed or antiretroviral-naive patients. These were phylogenetically analysed to determine the subtypes and recombination breakpoint analyses were performed on intersubtype recombinants to estimate the recombination breakpoint(s).

Results: CRF01_AE predominated in Kuala Lumpur with 65% in both PR and RT genes. B subtype was detected at 14% and 12% in PR and RT genes, respectively. C subtype was present at 1% in both genes. Overall, the concordance of PR and RT genes in discriminating subtypes/circulating recombinant forms (CRF) was high at 96%. In this study, novel CRF01_AE/B intersubtype recombinants were detected at high prevalence (22%), including those isolates with subtype discordance. Thai variants of CRF01_AE and B subtype were involved in the genesis of these unique recombinant forms (URF). Interestingly, 19 CRF01_AE/B intersubtype recombinant isolates shared similar recombination breakpoints in both PR and RT genes. Several distinct URF were also identified.

Conclusion: PR and RT genes can be utilized for subtype/CRF assessment with high degree of agreement, allowing concurrent surveillance of circulating HIV-1 subtypes with antiretroviral drug resistance genotyping tests. The emergence of highly identical CRF01_AE/B intersubtype recombinants suggests the possibility of the appearance of a new circulating recombinant form in Kuala Lumpur.

From the Department of Medical Microbiology and aMedicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Malaya, 50603 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Received 6 September, 2004

Revised 21 October, 2004

Accepted 2 November, 2004

Correspondence to K.P. Ng and K.K. Tee, Department of Medical Microbiology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Malaya, 50603 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. E-mails: kpng@um.edu.my; K2tee@yahoo.com

© 2005 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.