Geographical distribution of HIV-1 group O viruses in Africa

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To determine to what extent HIV-1 group O strains are present in different African countries.

Materials and methods:

A total of 14 682 samples of sera from a range of patients from 12 different African countries were tested. All the sera were tested with an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) using a combination of V3 peptides from ANT-70 and MVP-5180. Samples reactive in ELISA were retested in a line immunoassay (LIA-O). Samples reactive in ELISA were also retested with an in-house Western blot to determine the presence of antibodies to gp120 of HIV-1 ANT-70. Polymerase chain reaction was performed on HIV-1 group O and group O indeterminate sera.


Of all the sera samples tested, only 19 sera had antibodies to group O V3 peptides exclusively and 46 were indeterminate for group O infection in LIA-O. The highest prevalence of HIV-1 group O infection among HIV-positive sera was observed in Cameroon (2.1%) and neighbouring countries, 1.1% in Nigeria and 0.9% in Gabon. The lowest rates were seen in west Africa: 0.07% in Senegal, 0.14% in Togo, 0.16% in Chad and 0.3% in Niger. Group O sera were observed in almost all the population categories tested. The ANT-70 V3 peptide in LIA-O was reactive with all of the sera considered to be HIV-1 group O antibody positive by LIA, versus 78.9% for the MVP-5180 peptide. Thirteen out of 19 group O samples of sera were tested in PCR. Eight samples were identified as group O by specific group O pol and/or V3 primers; in the remaining five samples no HIV RNA could be detected. Of the indeterminate sera samples, two were identified as group O.


In eight of the 12 countries tested, antibodies to group O viruses were identified. Numbers of HIV-1 group O viruses are low. Their presence is not restricted to Cameroon and neighbouring countries but can also be found in west and south-east Africa.

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