Sivay MV, Hudelson SE, Wang J, Agyei Y, Hamilton EL, Selin A, Dennis A, Kahn K, Gomez-Olive FX, MacPhail C, Hughes JP, Pettifor A, Eshleman SH, Grabowski MK. HIV-1 diversity among young women in rural South Africa: HPTN 068. PLoS One. 2018, 13: e0198999. PMC6033411
BACKGROUND: South Africa has one of the highest rates of HIV-1 (HIV) infection world-wide, with the highest rates among young women. We analyzed the molecular epidemiology and evolutionary history of HIV in young women attending high school in rural South Africa. METHODS: Samples were obtained from the HPTN 068 randomized controlled trial, which evaluated the effect of cash transfers for school attendance on HIV incidence in women aged 13-20 years (Mpumalanga province, 2011-2015). Plasma samples from HIV-infected participants were analyzed using the ViroSeq HIV-1 Genotyping assay. Phylogenetic analysis was performed using 200 pol gene study sequences and 2,294 subtype C reference sequences from South Africa. Transmission clusters were identified using Cluster Picker and HIV-TRACE, and were characterized using demographic and other epidemiological data. Phylodynamic analyses were performed using the BEAST software. RESULTS: The study enrolled 2,533 young women who were followed through their expected high school graduation date (main study); some participants had a post-study assessment (follow-up study). Two-hundred-twelve of 2,533 enrolled young women had HIV infection. HIV pol sequences were obtained for 94% (n = 201/212) of the HIV-infected participants. All but one of the sequences were HIV-1 subtype C; the non-C subtype sequence was excluded from further analysis. Median pairwise genetic distance between the subtype C sequences was 6.4% (IQR: 5.6-7.2). Overall, 26% of study sequences fell into 21 phylogenetic clusters with 2-6 women per cluster. Thirteen (62%) clusters included women who were HIV-infected at enrollment. Clustering was not associated with study arm, demographic or other epidemiological factors. The estimated date of origin of HIV subtype C in the study population was 1958 (95% highest posterior density [HPD]: 1931-1980), and the median estimated substitution rate among study pol sequences was 1.98x10-3 (95% HPD: 1.15x10-3-2.81x10-3) per site per year. CONCLUSIONS: Phylogenetic analysis suggests that multiple HIV subtype C sublineages circulate among school age girls in South Africa. There were no substantive differences in the molecular epidemiology of HIV between control and intervention arms in the HPTN 068 trial.