National Survey of Prevalent HIV Strains: Limited Genetic Variation of Korean HIV-1 Clade B Within the Population of Korean Men Who Have Sex With Men

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The evolution of HIV is the result of an explosive combination of factors-a high rate of mutation, replication dynamics, frequent recombination, and natural selection. To understand the evolution of the distinctive Korean HIV-1 B clade, we investigated the characteristics of the genetic variation of the HIV-1 subtype B env gene within the group of Korean men who have sex with men (MSM). From 1985 to 2005, 700 HIV-1-infected Koreans were sequenced at the V1 to V5 region of the HIV-1 env gene. In the phylogenetic analysis, 560 isolates were identified as HIV-1 subtype B, and 489 of the 560 isolates were HIV-1 Korean clade B. Based on epidemiologic investigation, 249 of 700 HIV-1-infected patients were HIV-1 subtype B-infected MSM. Interestingly, the proportion of the GPGS motif in MSM infected by Koreans was 1.6 times higher than in MSM infected by foreigners, and the genetic expansions of diversity and divergence for HIV-1 subtype B in Korean MSM were 2.1% and 2.5%, respectively. This was much lower than those observed in other countries. Therefore, our findings imply that the HIV strains in this group were closely related. This result may be helpful for understanding the evolution of the distinct HIV-1 Korean B clade.

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