Objectives:To study the molecular epidemiology of HIV-1 strains found in Switzerland and to determine possible genetic linkages among strains sorted by risk group or geographic region.
Design:A cross-sectional, clinic-based survey of HIV-1 molecular sequences and linked patient history from Swiss people.
Methods:Specimens were collected from 215 HIV-1-infected people in HIV outpatient clinics of four tertiary referral centers (Lausanne, St. Gallen, Zurich, and Basel) between May and August 1996, mainly from homosexual men, injecting drug users (IDU), and heterosexually infected people. In addition, specimens collected between 1991 and 1995 in the HIV outpatient clinic at University of Geneva were included into this survey. These specimens were collected primarily for an ongoing, prospective cohort (Swiss HIV Cohort Study). Direct C2V3C3 sequences of the env gene were determined from 158 samples of peripheral blood mononuclear cells. Genetic data were analyzed with the available patient history on each specimen.
Results:As found in other previous studies in Europe, primarily subtype B viruses were identified, whereas seven (4%) of 158 were non-subtype B: one subtype D, four subtype A, and two subtype E. Five of seven non-B subtypes occurred in immigrants from African or Asian countries and all seven were found exclusively in individuals who had been infected by heterosexual contact. No significant clustering of strains within different study sites or risk groups was found. A silent mutation (LAI env 834) occurred significantly more often in IDU than in homosexual men (p < .001).
Conclusions:Although the lack of significant clustering of strains by risk group or geographic region may result from early introduction of subtype B viruses in Switzerland, the strong association of a silent mutation with IDU suggests that, early in the epidemic, there was a unique founder virus among IDUs. The HIV epidemic in Switzerland is still predominantly caused by subtype B viruses.
GenBank Accession Numbers:AF181288-AF181445.
Address correspondence and reprint requests to Thomas C. Stoeckli, University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, Division of Infectious Diseases, 4200 East Ninth Avenue, Box B 168, Denver, CO 80262, U.S.A.; email: Thomas.Stoeckli@uchsc.edu.
This study was presented in part at the XII International Conference on AIDS 1998, Geneva, Switzerland [abstract 13207].
Manuscript received March 18, 1999; accepted October 22, 1999.
© 2000 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.