Background: A population-based phylogenetic approach was used to characterize human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-transmission dynamics in Quebec.
Methods: HIV-1 pol sequences included primary HIV infections (PHIs; <6 months after seroconversion) from the Quebec PHI cohort (1998-2005; n=215) and the provincial genotyping program (2001-2005; n=481). Phylogenetic analysis determined sequence interrelationships among unique PHIs (n=593) and infections from untreated (n=135) and treated (n=660) chronically infected (CI) potential transmitter populations (2001-2005). Clinical features, risk factors, and drug resistance for clustered and nonclustered transmission events were ascertained.
Results: Viruses from 49.4% (293/593) of PHIs cosegregated into 75 transmission chains with 2-17 transmissions/cluster. Half of the clusters included 2.7+/-0.8 (mean+/-SD) transmissions, whereas the remainder had 8.8+/-3.5 transmissions. Maximum periods for onward transmission in clusters were 15.2+/-9.5 months. Coclustering of untreated and treated CIs with PHIs were infrequent (6.2% and 4.8%, respectively). The ages, viremia, and risk factors were similar for clustered and nonclustered transmission events. Low prevalence of drug resistance in PHI supported amplified transmissions at early stages.
Conclusions: Early infection accounts for approximately half of onward transmissions in this urban North American study. Therapy at early stages of disease may prevent onward HIV transmission.