Molecular and phylogenetic analysis of HIV-1 variants circulating among injecting drug users in Mashhad-Iran
1 Inst. of Infectious Diseases, Univ. of Mashhad –, Iran
2 Viral Oncogenesis and Immunotherapy & AIDS Refer. Center, Ist. Naz. Tumori "Fond. G. Pascale", Naples –, Italy
3 Epidemiology Unit, Dept. Infectious Diseases, ISS, Rome –, Italy
4 Allergy and Immunology Dept, Univ. of Mashhad –, Iran
Infectious Agents and Cancer 2006, 1:4 doi:10.1186/1750-9378-1-4Published: 19 September 2006
Genetic and phylogenetic information on the HIV-1 epidemic in Middle-East Countries, and in particular in Iran, are extremely limited. By March 2004, the Iranian Ministry of Health officially reported a cumulative number of 6'532 HIV positive individuals and 214 AIDS cases in the Iranian HIV-1 epidemic. The intra-venous drug users (IDUs) represent the group at highest risk for HIV-1 infection in Iran, accounting for almost 63% of all HIV-infected population. In this regards, a molecular phylogenetic study has been performed on a sentinel cohort of HIV-1 seropositive IDUs enrolled at the end of 2005 at the University of Mashhad, the largest city North East of Tehran. The study has been performed on both gag and env subgenomic regions amplified by Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) from peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) and characterized by direct DNA sequence analysis. The results reported here show that the HIV-1 subtype A is circulating in this IDUs sentinel cohort. Moreover, the single phylogenetic cluster as well as the intra-group low nucleotide divergence is indicative of a recent outbreak. Unexpectedly, the Iranian samples appear to be phylogenetically derived from African Sub-Saharan subtype A viruses, raising stirring speculations on HIV-1 introduction into the IDUs epidemic in Mashhad. This sentinel study could represent the starting point for a wider molecular survey of the HIV-1 epidemics in Iran to evaluate in detail the distribution of genetic subtypes and possible natural drug-resistant variants, which are extremely helpful information to design diagnostic and therapeutic strategies.