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  1. Chow WZ, Bon AH, Keating S, Anderios F, Halim HA, Takebe Y, et al.
    PLoS ONE, 2016;11(8):e0161853.
    PMID: 27575746 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0161853
    Transfusion-transmissible infections including HIV-1 continue to pose major risks for unsafe blood transfusions due to both window phase infections and divergent viruses that may not be detected by donor screening assays. Given the recent emergence of several HIV-1 circulating recombinant forms (CRFs) in high-risk populations in the Southeast Asia region, we investigated the genetic diversity of HIV-1 among the blood donors in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. A total of 211 HIV-positive plasma samples detected among 730,188 donations to the National Blood Centre between 2013 and 2014 were provided (90.5% male, median age: 27.0 years old). Recent or long-term infection status at the time of donation was determined using a limiting antigen avidity enzyme immunoassay (LAg-Avidity EIA). HIV-1 gag-pol genes were amplified and sequenced from residual plasma for 149 cases followed by genotype determination using phylogenetic and recombination analyses. Transmitted antiretroviral resistance mutations were not observed among the blood donors, among which 22.7% were classified as recent or incident infections. Major circulating HIV-1 genotypes determined by neighbour-joining phylogenetic inference included CRF01_AE at 40.9% (61/149), CRF33_01B at 21.5% (32/149), and subtype B at 10.1% (15/149). Newly-described CRFs including CRF54_01B circulated at 4.0%, CRF74_01B at 2.0%, and CRF53_01B and CRF48_01B at 0.7% each. Interestingly, unique HIV-1 genotypes including African subtype G (8.7%), CRF45_cpx (1.3%), CRF02_AG (0.7%) and CRF07_BC (0.7%) from China were detected for the first time in the country. A cluster of subtype G sequences formed a distinct founder sub-lineage within the African strains. In addition, 8.7% (13/149) of HIV-infected donors had unique recombinant forms (URFs) including CRF01_AE/B' (4.7%), B'/C (2.7%) and B'/G (1.3%) recombinants. Detailed analysis identified similar recombinant structures with shared parental strains among the B'/C and B'/G URFs, some of which were sequenced from recently infected individuals, indicating the possible emergence and on-going spread of foreign clades of CRF candidates among the local population. The findings demonstrate extensive molecular complexity of HIV-1 among the infected blood donors in Malaysia, driven in part by the increased spread of recently described CRFs and multiple introductions of previously unreported genotypes from highly prevalent countries.
  2. Tee KK, Bon AH, Chow WZ, Ng KT, Chan KG, Kamarulzaman A, et al.
    Genome Announc, 2017 Jun 29;5(26).
    PMID: 28663289 DOI: 10.1128/genomeA.00459-17
    We report here the first HIV-1 circulating recombinant form (CRF) complex identified among the blood donors in Malaysia. The CRF77_cpx mosaic genome consists of parental subtypes B', C, and CRF01_AE and is structurally related to CRF07_BC. The identification of CRF77_cpx underlines the genetic complexity and mobility of HIV-1 among the blood donors.
  3. Hora B, Keating SM, Chen Y, Sanchez AM, Sabino E, Hunt G, et al.
    PLoS ONE, 2016;11(6):e0157340.
    PMID: 27314585 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0157340
    HIV-1 subtypes and drug resistance are routinely tested by many international surveillance groups. However, results from different sites often vary. A systematic comparison of results from multiple sites is needed to determine whether a standardized protocol is required for consistent and accurate data analysis. A panel of well-characterized HIV-1 isolates (N = 50) from the External Quality Assurance Program Oversight Laboratory (EQAPOL) was assembled for evaluation at seven international sites. This virus panel included seven subtypes, six circulating recombinant forms (CRFs), nine unique recombinant forms (URFs) and three group O viruses. Seven viruses contained 10 major drug resistance mutations (DRMs). HIV-1 isolates were prepared at a concentration of 107 copies/ml and compiled into blinded panels. Subtypes and DRMs were determined with partial or full pol gene sequences by conventional Sanger sequencing and/or Next Generation Sequencing (NGS). Subtype and DRM results were reported and decoded for comparison with full-length genome sequences generated by EQAPOL. The partial pol gene was amplified by RT-PCR and sequenced for 89.4%-100% of group M viruses at six sites. Subtyping results of majority of the viruses (83%-97.9%) were correctly determined for the partial pol sequences. All 10 major DRMs in seven isolates were detected at these six sites. The complete pol gene sequence was also obtained by NGS at one site. However, this method missed six group M viruses and sequences contained host chromosome fragments. Three group O viruses were only characterized with additional group O-specific RT-PCR primers employed by one site. These results indicate that PCR protocols and subtyping tools should be standardized to efficiently amplify diverse viruses and more consistently assign virus genotypes, which is critical for accurate global subtype and drug resistance surveillance. Targeted NGS analysis of partial pol sequences can serve as an alternative approach, especially for detection of low-abundance DRMs.
  4. Rhee SY, Blanco JL, Jordan MR, Taylor J, Lemey P, Varghese V, et al.
    PLoS Med., 2015 Apr;12(4):e1001810.
    PMID: 25849352 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1001810
    BACKGROUND: Regional and subtype-specific mutational patterns of HIV-1 transmitted drug resistance (TDR) are essential for informing first-line antiretroviral (ARV) therapy guidelines and designing diagnostic assays for use in regions where standard genotypic resistance testing is not affordable. We sought to understand the molecular epidemiology of TDR and to identify the HIV-1 drug-resistance mutations responsible for TDR in different regions and virus subtypes.

    METHODS AND FINDINGS: We reviewed all GenBank submissions of HIV-1 reverse transcriptase sequences with or without protease and identified 287 studies published between March 1, 2000, and December 31, 2013, with more than 25 recently or chronically infected ARV-naïve individuals. These studies comprised 50,870 individuals from 111 countries. Each set of study sequences was analyzed for phylogenetic clustering and the presence of 93 surveillance drug-resistance mutations (SDRMs). The median overall TDR prevalence in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), south/southeast Asia (SSEA), upper-income Asian countries, Latin America/Caribbean, Europe, and North America was 2.8%, 2.9%, 5.6%, 7.6%, 9.4%, and 11.5%, respectively. In SSA, there was a yearly 1.09-fold (95% CI: 1.05-1.14) increase in odds of TDR since national ARV scale-up attributable to an increase in non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor (NNRTI) resistance. The odds of NNRTI-associated TDR also increased in Latin America/Caribbean (odds ratio [OR] = 1.16; 95% CI: 1.06-1.25), North America (OR = 1.19; 95% CI: 1.12-1.26), Europe (OR = 1.07; 95% CI: 1.01-1.13), and upper-income Asian countries (OR = 1.33; 95% CI: 1.12-1.55). In SSEA, there was no significant change in the odds of TDR since national ARV scale-up (OR = 0.97; 95% CI: 0.92-1.02). An analysis limited to sequences with mixtures at less than 0.5% of their nucleotide positions—a proxy for recent infection—yielded trends comparable to those obtained using the complete dataset. Four NNRTI SDRMs—K101E, K103N, Y181C, and G190A—accounted for >80% of NNRTI-associated TDR in all regions and subtypes. Sixteen nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor (NRTI) SDRMs accounted for >69% of NRTI-associated TDR in all regions and subtypes. In SSA and SSEA, 89% of NNRTI SDRMs were associated with high-level resistance to nevirapine or efavirenz, whereas only 27% of NRTI SDRMs were associated with high-level resistance to zidovudine, lamivudine, tenofovir, or abacavir. Of 763 viruses with TDR in SSA and SSEA, 725 (95%) were genetically dissimilar; 38 (5%) formed 19 sequence pairs. Inherent limitations of this study are that some cohorts may not represent the broader regional population and that studies were heterogeneous with respect to duration of infection prior to sampling.

    CONCLUSIONS: Most TDR strains in SSA and SSEA arose independently, suggesting that ARV regimens with a high genetic barrier to resistance combined with improved patient adherence may mitigate TDR increases by reducing the generation of new ARV-resistant strains. A small number of NNRTI-resistance mutations were responsible for most cases of high-level resistance, suggesting that inexpensive point-mutation assays to detect these mutations may be useful for pre-therapy screening in regions with high levels of TDR. In the context of a public health approach to ARV therapy, a reliable point-of-care genotypic resistance test could identify which patients should receive standard first-line therapy and which should receive a protease-inhibitor-containing regimen.

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