Predominance of CCR5-Dependent HIV-1 Subtype E Isolates in Cambodia

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To investigate the genetic and biologic features of HIV-1 strains circulating in Cambodia, viruses from 95 HIV-1-seropositive individuals were subtyped by heteroduplex mobility assay (HMA) and 23 were further analyzed for their biologic characteristics. Eighty-nine individuals were clearly infected by HIV-1 subtype E. The other six samples were sequenced, together with 17 HMA subtype E samples. All but one of the 23 Cambodian env sequences clustered with previously described Thai and Vietnamese subtype E sequences, bearing a GPGQ motif at the tip of the V3 loop; the last had a GPGR motif and was phylogenetically equidistant from Asian and African subtype E viruses. Nonsyncytium-inducing, CCR5-dependent viruses predominated in patients of clinical stage B even in some with a high viral load and were detected in about 50% of the patients of stage C. All syncytium-inducing strains, mostly from AIDS patients, used both CCR5 and CXCR4. The presence of syncytium-inducing viruses did not correlate with the plasma viral load. These data show that CCR5-dependent HIV-1 subtype E is currently predominant in Cambodia. The analysis of clinical and virologic markers strongly supports the idea that dynamics of the viral population during subtype E infection in Southeast Asia is similar to that of subtype B infection in Europe and the United States.

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