Reconstructing the Timing and Dispersion Routes of HIV-1 Subtype B Epidemics in The Caribbean and Central America: A Phylogenetic Story
BACKGROUND The molecular epidemiology of HIV-1 in the Caribbean has been described using partial genome sequencing; subtype B is the most common subtype in multiple countries. To expand our knowledge of this, nearly full genome amplification, sequencing and analysis was conducted. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS Virion RNA from sera collected in Haiti, Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago were reverse transcribed, PCR amplified, sequenced and phylogenetically analyzed. Nearly full genomes were completed for 15 strains; partial pol was done for 67 strains. All but one of the 67 strains analyzed in pol were subtype B; the exception was a unique recombinant of subtypes B and C collected in the Dominican Republic. Of the nearly full genomes of 14 strains that were subtype B in pol, all were subtype B from one end of the genome to the other and not inter-subtype recombinants. Surprisingly, the Caribbean subtype B strains clustered significantly with each other and separate from subtype B from other parts of the pandemic. CONCLUSIONS The more complete analysis of HIV-1 from 4 Caribbean countries confirms previous research using partial genome analysis that the predominant subtype in circulation was subtype B. The Caribbean strains are phylogenetically distinct from other subtype B strains although the biological meaning of this finding is unclear.