Mullins Molecular Retrovirology Lab

  • Department of Microbiology
  • School of Medicine
  • University of Washington
University of Washington/Fred Hutch Center for AIDS Research

Citation Information

Tien PC, Chiu T, Latif A, Ray S, Batra M, Contag CH, Zejena L, Mbizvo M, Delwart EL, Mullins JI, Katzenstein DA (1999). Primary subtype C HIV-1 infection in Harare, Zimbabwe. Journal of acquired immune deficiency syndromes and human retrovirology : official publication of the International Retrovirology Association, 20(2), 147-53. (pubmed)


Heterosexual transmission of HIV-1 is widespread in Southern Africa. Heteroduplex mobility assays (HMA) and phylogenetic analyses of V3-V5 envelope (env) gene sequences demonstrate that subtype C predominates in Zimbabwe. To elucidate factors contributing to the epidemic in Zimbabwe, clinical and virologic characteristics of recently acquired subtype C HIV-1 infection among 21 men and 1 woman were determined. In 12 of 19 men providing clinical histories, a sexually transmitted infection preceded serologic evidence of HIV-1, and 14 of 19 men complained of rash or fever before seroconversion. Quantitative p24 antigen levels, reverse transcriptase activity, and HIV RNA levels of 22 viral isolates correlated with in vitro infectivity in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (p < .05). Biologic phenotype assessed in MT-2 cells demonstrated that 3 of 22 isolates (14%) were syncytia inducing (SI) and the remaining 19 nonsyncytium inducing (NSI). Early growth of virus in culture was associated with increased plasma HIV RNA levels, decreased CD4 cell levels, and SI virus. Recent subtype C HIV-1 infection through heterosexual transmission in Zimbabwe demonstrated clinical and virologic features consistent with reports of seroconversion to subtype B viruses.