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HIV-1 infections with multiple founders are associated with higher viral loads than infections with single founders


Given the variation in the HIV-1 viral load (VL) set point across subjects, as opposed to a fairly stable VL over time within an infected individual, it is important to identify the characteristics of the host and virus that affect VL set point. Although recently infected individuals with multiple phylogenetically linked HIV-1 founder variants represent a minority of HIV-1 infections, we found—in two different cohorts—that more diverse HIV-1 populations in early infection were associated with significantly higher VL 1 year after HIV-1 diagnosis.

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Figure 1: The positive relationship between HIV-1 diversity and viral loads over the first year after HIV-1 diagnosis.
Figure 2: The negative relationship between HIV-1 diversity and CD4+ T cell counts over the first year after HIV-1 diagnosis.


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We would like to thank the participants in the Step study and the RV144 trial for their contributions to this research and Lisa Reilly for editorial help. Sequencing and analysis were performed under grants from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases: US Public Health Service grant AI41505; Interagency Agreement Y1-AI-2642-12 with the US Army Medical Research and Material Command; US National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant 2R37AI05465-10 to P.B.G. This work was also supported by a cooperative agreement (W81XWH-07-2-0067) between the Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine, Inc., and the US Department of Defense. The opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and should not be construed as official or representing the views of the US Department of Defense or the Department of the Army. This does not alter our adherence to policies on sharing data and materials.

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H.J. and M.R. designed and performed experiments, analyzed data and wrote the manuscript. S.T., A.D., J.T.H., L.C., S.G.S., S.P.B., M.J.M., R.J.O'C., R.M.P., S.R.-N., S.N., P.P., J.K., M.L.R., N.L.M., J.H.K. and P.B.G. oversaw the vaccine trials and clinical aspects. J.T.H., R.T., N.F., M.J.M., M.L.R., N.L.M., J.I.M., J.H.K. and P.B.G. edited the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Morgane Rolland.

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Competing interests

M.R., S.T., R.T. and M.L.R. are employees of the Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine, Inc.

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Janes, H., Herbeck, J., Tovanabutra, S. et al. HIV-1 infections with multiple founders are associated with higher viral loads than infections with single founders. Nat Med 21, 1139–1141 (2015).

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