Increased genetic diversity of HIV-1 circulating in Hong Kong

PLoS One. 2010 Aug 16;5(8):e12198. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0012198.


HIV-1 group M strains are characterized into 9 pure subtypes and 48 circulating recombinant forms (CRFs). Recent studies have identified the presence of new HIV-1 recombinants in Hong Kong and their complexity continues to increase. This study aims to characterize the HIV-1 genetic diversity in Hong Kong. Phylogenetic analyses were performed by using HIV-1 pol sequences including protease and partial reverse transcriptase isolated from 1045 local patients in Hong Kong from 2003 to 2008. For the pol sequences with unassigned genotype, the evidence of recombination was determined by using sliding-window based bootscan plots and their env C2V3 region were also sequenced. Epidemiological background of these patients was further collected. The pol phylogenetic analyses highlighted the extent of HIV-1 genetic diversity in Hong Kong. Subtype B (450/1045; 43.1%) and CRF01_AE (469/1045; 44.9%) variants were clearly predominant. Other genotypes (126/1045; 12.1%) including 3 defined subtypes, 10 CRFs, 1 unassigned subtype and 33 recombinants with 11 different mosaic patterns were observed. Recombinants of subtype B and CRF01_AE were mainly found among local Chinese MSM throughout 2004 to 2008, while the CRF02_AG and subtype G recombinants were circulating among non-Chinese Asian population in Hong Kong through heterosexual transmission starting from 2008. Our study demonstrated the complex recombination of HIV-1 in Hong Kong and the need in developing surveillance system for tracking the distribution of new HIV-1 genetic variants.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • DNA, Recombinant / genetics
  • Female
  • Genetic Variation*
  • Genotype
  • HIV Infections / epidemiology
  • HIV Infections / transmission
  • HIV-1 / classification
  • HIV-1 / genetics*
  • HIV-1 / physiology
  • Hong Kong / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Phylogeny
  • env Gene Products, Human Immunodeficiency Virus / genetics
  • pol Gene Products, Human Immunodeficiency Virus / genetics


  • DNA, Recombinant
  • env Gene Products, Human Immunodeficiency Virus
  • pol Gene Products, Human Immunodeficiency Virus