Indexed on: 09 May '08Published on: 09 May '08Published in: AIDS research and human retroviruses
Since the first outbreak of HIV-1 was reported in heroin users in China in 1989, HIV-1 has spread steadily among injection drug users, leading to an exponential growth of nationwide outbreaks from 1998 to 2004. However, the impact of sexual transmission on outbreaks of HIV in China's general population is still unclear. Through a governmental HIV/AIDS surveillance program, an HIV serological study was conducted in volunteers between 1996 and 2005 in Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture of Yunnan province. We performed the transmission reconstruction by molecular epidemiological tracing in a subset of the HIV-1-seropositive individuals diagnosed during this survey. Neighbor joining and maximum likelihood trees based on the HIV-1 pol and env genes were implemented to provide information on putative epidemiological links, which were then confirmed by contact tracing. Of 25,390 volunteers, 501 (2%) accumulated cases of HIV-1 infection (21.1% in needle-sharing drug users, 77.3% in heterosexual adults, 0.4% in homosexual adults, and 1.2% in children born from infected mothers) were diagnosed. Among 44 heterosexually infected and antiretroviral-naive local-traceable individuals (27 infected with HIV-1 subtype CRF01_AE, 15 with CRF08_BC, 1 with G, and 1 with a new B/C recombinant), 18 (40.9%) were coclustered into 8 transmission chains with an average size of 2.25 infections per chain. Phylogenetic and epidemiological linkages confirmed eight heterosexual transmission events. This is the first report providing molecular epidemiological evidence of heterosexual transmission of HIV-1 in China's general population. The reconstruction of transmission of current HIV-1 outbreaks by molecular epidemiological tracing is instrumental in identifying sources of the epidemic and in defining prevention strategies.