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Human infection by genetically diverse SIVSM-related HIV-2 in West Africa

Abstract

OUR understanding of the biology and origins of human immunodeficiency virus type 2 (HIV-2) derives from studies of cultured isolates from urban populations experiencing epidemic infection and disease1–8. To test the hypothesis that such isolates might represent only a subset of a larger, genetically more diverse group of viruses, we used nested polymerase chain reactions to characterize HIV-2 sequences in uncultured mononuclear blood cells of two healthy Liberian agricultural workers, from whom virus isolation was repeatedly unsuccessful, and from a culture-positive symptomatic urban dweller. Analysis of pol, env and long terminal repeat regions revealed the presence of three highly divergent HIV-2 strains, one of which (from one of the healthy subjects) was significantly more closely related to simian immunodeficiency viruses infecting sooty mangabeys and rhesus macaques (SIVSM/SIVMAC) than to any virus of human derivation. This subject also harboured multiply defective viral genotypes that resulted from hypermutation of G to A bases. Our results indicate that HIV-2, SIVSM and SIVMAC comprise a single, highly diverse group of lentiviruses which cannot be separated into distinct phylogenetic lineages according to species of origin.

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