METHODS: The study included 143 new cases of HIV-1 infection. Viral RNA was extracted from stocked plasma samples and sequenced for the pol and the env regions using the Sanger method. Near-full length sequencing using MiSeq was performed in 3 patients who were suspected to be infected with recombinant HIV-1. Phylogenetic analysis was performed using the neighbor-joining method and Bayesian Markov chain Monte Carlo method.
RESULTS: MSM was the main transmission route in the previous and current studies. However, heterosexual route showed a significant increase in recent years. Phylogenetic analysis documented three taxa; Mongolian B, Korean B, and CRF51_01B, though the former two were also observed in the previous study. CRF51_01B, which originated from Singapore and Malaysia, was confirmed by near-full length sequencing. Although these strains were mainly detected in MSM, they were also found in increasing numbers of heterosexual males and females. Bayesian phylogenetic analysis estimated transmission of CRF51_01B into Mongolia around early 2000s. An extended Bayesian skyline plot showed a rapid increase in the effective population size of Mongolian B cluster around 2004 and that of CRF51_01B cluster around 2011.
CONCLUSIONS: HIV-1 infection might expand to the general population in Mongolia. Our study documented a new cluster of HIV-1 transmission, enhancing our understanding of the epidemiological status of HIV-1 in Mongolia.