Objective: Characterize intra-individual HIV-1 subtype B pol evolution in antiretroviral naive individuals.
Design: Longitudinal cohort study of individuals enrolled during primary infection.
Methods: Eligible individuals were antiretroviral naïve participants enrolled in the cohort from December 1997-December 2005 and having at least two blood samples available with the first one collected within a year of their estimated date of infection. Population-based pol sequences were generated from collected blood samples and analyzed for genetic divergence over time in respect to dual infection status, HLA, CD4 count and viral load.
Results: 93 participants were observed for a median of 1.8 years (Mean = 2.2 years, SD =1.9 years). All participants classified as mono-infected had less than 0.7% divergence between any two of their pol sequences using the Tamura-Nei model (TN93), while individuals with dual infection had up to 7.0% divergence. The global substitution rates (substitutions/nucleotide/year) for mono and dually infected individuals were significantly different (p<0.001); however, substitution rates were not associated with HLA haplotype, CD4 or viral load.
Conclusions: Even after a maximum of almost 9 years of follow-up, all mono-infected participants had less than 1% divergence between baseline and longitudinal sequences, while participants with dual infection had 10 times greater divergence. These data support the use of HIV-1 pol sequence data to evaluate transmission events, networks and HIV-1 dual infection.