During the period 1996–1997, three highly homogeneous variants of HIV-1 were identified, circulating among injecting drug users (IDUs) in the former Soviet Union republics. One of these belonged to HIV-1 genetic subtype A (IDU-A), another belonged to HIV-1 genetic subtype B (IDU-B) and the third was a recombinant between the first two variants (CRF03_AB). However, since 1997, the HIV-1 epidemic has affected an increasing number of geographic regions in Russia. This study was undertaken to survey the prevailing genetic variants and to estimate the current proportions of these three HIV-1 genetic subtypes in Russia. Blood samples were taken in 1999–2003 from 1090 HIV-infected individuals and analysed by gag/env HMA. The IDU-A variant was found to be the majority variant (89.7–100%) in 44 of 45 regions of the Russian Federation studied. The IDU-A variant was also found to spreading rapidly through heterosexual transmission in 1999–2003 (30/34, 88%). CRF03_AB predominates in the Kaliningrad region only (28/29, 96.6%). The IDU-B variant is currently of minor importance in the IDU epidemic but other European subtype B variants predominate among men having sex with men (18/18, 100%). Sequence analysis of the env V3 encoding regions derived from HIV-1 infected individuals in Yekaterinburg (the main centre of the HIV-1 epidemic in Russia in 2002–2003) showed that the IDU-A variant is still highly homogeneous. The mean pairwise nucleotide distance (n?=?9) was 2.89?±?1.14 (range 1.36–6.14). However, the mean genetic distance between each sequence within the samples collected from the Yekaterinburg IDU-A variant subset and the IDU-A consensus is 2.51?±?1.06 (range 1.36–4.66) and considerably higher than in South Russia in 1996 (0.79?±?0.51, range 0.38–1.90). The current HIV-1 epidemic in Russia is almost entirely caused by a highly homogeneous A-subtype strain, which will influence vaccine development strategies and must be taken into account in the quality control of molecular tests for the diagnosis of HIV-1.
Bobkov, A.F.; Kazennova, E.V.; Selimova, L.M.; Khanina, T.A.; Ryabov, G.S.; Bobkova, M.R.; Sukhanova, A.L.; Kravchenko, A.V.; Ladnaya, N.N.; Weber, J.N.; Pokrovsky, V.V. Temporal trends in the HIV-1 epidemic in Russia: Predominance of subtype A. Journal of Medical Virology (2004) 74 (2) 191-196. [DOI: 10.1002/jmv.20177]