Hotspots of Transmission Driving the Local Human Immunodeficiency Virus Epidemic in the Cologne-Bonn Region, Germany

Clin Infect Dis. 2019 Apr 24;68(9):1539-1546. doi: 10.1093/cid/ciy744.


Background: Geographical allocation of interventions focusing on hotspots of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) transmission has the potential to improve efficiency. We used phylogeographic analyses to identify hotspots of the HIV transmission in Cologne-Bonn, Germany.

Methods: We included 714 HIV-1 infected individuals, followed up at the University Hospitals Cologne and Bonn. Distance-based molecular network analyses were performed to infer putative relationships. Characteristics of genetically linked individuals and assortativity (shared characteristics) were analyzed. Geospatial diffusion (ie, viral gene flow) was evaluated using a Slatkin-Maddison approach. Geospatial dispersal was determined by calculating the average distance between the residences of linked individuals (centroids of 3-digit zip code).

Results: In sum, 217/714 (30.4%) sequences had a putative genetic linkage, forming 77 clusters (size range: 2-8). Linked individuals were more likely to live in areas surrounding the city center (P = .043), <30 years of age (P = .009). and infected with HIV-1 subtype B (P = .002). Clustering individuals were nonassortative by area of residency (-.0026, P = .046). Geospatial analyses revealed a median distance between genetically linked individuals of 23.4 kilometers (km), lower than expected (P < .001). Slatkin-Maddison analyses revealed increased gene flow from central Cologne toward the surrounding areas (P < .001).

Conclusion: Phylogeographic analysis suggests that central Cologne may be a significant driver of the regional epidemic. Although clustering individuals lived closer than unlinked individuals, they were less likely to be linked to others from their same zip code. These results could help public health entities better understand transmission dynamics, facilitating allocation of resources to areas of greatest need.

Trial registration: NCT02149004.

Keywords: HIV transmission; geospatial dispersial; phylogeographic analyses; public health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Epidemics*
  • Female
  • Gene Flow
  • Genes, pol*
  • Genetic Linkage
  • Germany / epidemiology
  • HIV Infections / epidemiology*
  • HIV Infections / transmission*
  • HIV Infections / virology
  • HIV-1 / classification
  • HIV-1 / genetics*
  • Hospitals, University
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multigene Family*
  • Phylogeography
  • Public Health / statistics & numerical data
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sequence Analysis, RNA
  • Spatio-Temporal Analysis
  • Travel / statistics & numerical data

Associated data