The Origin and Evolutionary History of HIV-1 Subtype C in Senegal
The classification of HIV-1 strains in subtypes and Circulating Recombinant Forms (CRFs) has helped in tracking the course of the HIV pandemic. In Senegal, which is located at the tip of West Africa, CRF02_AG predominates in the general population and Female Sex Workers (FSWs). In contrast, 40% of Men having Sex with Men (MSM) in Senegal are infected with subtype C. In this study we analyzed the geographical origins and introduction dates of HIV-1 C in Senegal in order to better understand the evolutionary history of this subtype, which predominates today in the MSM population We used a combination of phylogenetic analyses and a Bayesian coalescent-based approach, to study the phylogenetic relationships in pol of 56 subtype C isolates from Senegal with 3,025 subtype C strains that were sampled worldwide. Our analysis shows a significantly well supported cluster which contains all subtype C strains that circulate among MSM in Senegal. The MSM cluster and other strains from Senegal are widely dispersed among the different subclusters of African HIV-1 C strains, suggesting multiple introductions of subtype C in Senegal from many different southern and east African countries. More detailed analyses show that HIV-1 C strains from MSM are more closely related to those from southern Africa. The estimated date of the MRCA of subtype C in the MSM population in Senegal is estimated to be in the early 80's. Our evolutionary reconstructions suggest that multiple subtype C viruses with a common ancestor originating in the early 1970s entered Senegal. There was only one efficient spread in the MSM population, which most likely resulted from a single introduction, underlining the importance of high-risk behavior in spread of viruses.