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Tracing the transmission dynamics of HIV-1 CRF55_01B

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To investigate the genetic diversity, spatiotemporal dynamics, and transmission networks of HIV-1 CRF55_01B epidemic in China. A total of 209 partial pol gene sequences of HIV-1 CRF55_01B were sampled during 2007-2015 from 7 provinces of China. Phylogenetic analyses and trait diffusion process of these sequences were performed using Bayesian methods. Distance-based molecular network analyses were performed to infer putative relationships. Characteristics of genetically linked individuals were analyzed. Our study identified that HIV-1 CRF55_01B likely originated among men who have sex with men (MSM) in Guangdong province in January 2003 (April 2000-April 2005), and that Guangdong province and MSM are major hubs for the spread of the HIV-1 CRF55_01B epidemic in China. A Bayesian Skygrid plot revealed that the effective population size of HIV-1 CRF55_01B experienced increased phase followed by a plateau. All sequences from persons of unknown risk clustered within groups who reported MSM risk. This could be because Chinese MSM may not report such risk due to HIV/AIDS-related stigmatization and discrimination. This study inferred the transmission dynamics of the HIV-1 CRF55_01B epidemic in China at high resolution. The methods developed in this study may be critical for designing effective HIV prevention strategies in China and beyond.

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