Circulating and unique recombinant HIV-1 strains continue to be identified and their number increases over time, suggesting that co-infection with multiple HIV-1 is frequent. In this study we analysed to what extent dual infections with different HIV-1 variants occur in a population group with high risk behaviour, high HIV-1 prevalence and in an area where multiple HIV-1 subtypes and Circulating Recombinant Forms (CRFs) co-circulate. We studied 69 MSM with our recently developed multi-region hybridization assay (MHA), based on fluorescent probe detection for eight common variants circulating in West and West Central Africa. At least 11 (15.9%) of the 69 patients were simultaneously infected with two different HIV-1 subtypes and/or CRFs. Among the 29 samples identified as subtype C by MHA in gag, 15 (57.7%) reacted with both C1 and C2 probes. Sequence analysis suggests that the majority of the samples reactive with C1 and C2 probes are most likely infected with two different subtype C clades. Single genome amplification and DNA dilutions confirmed dual infection with subtype D and C for MSM1193, triple infection with two different C subtype strains and one CRF02_AG strain in MSM1157 and showed that MSM3017 is at least co-infected with CRF06_cpx and CRF02_AG and another strain that could not be classified. Comparison of all subtype C sequences from the MSM population and from the general population from this and previous studies confirmed the intermixing of HIV-1 variants between low-risk women and high-risk men as shown by the intermixing of subtype C variants from MSM1157 and a female patient (02SN-HALD478). Comparison of dual infection rates between the general population and MSM in Senegal, show also clearly the importance of high HIV prevalence and high risk behaviour in dual infections and subsequent intermixing of HIV-1 variants which can lead to emergence and spread of new recombinants (CRFs).
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