West-Central Africa is an epicenter of the HIV pandemic; endemic to Cameroon are HIV-1 viruses belonging to all (sub) subtypes and numerous Circulating Recombinant Forms (CRFs). The rural villages of Cameroon harbor many strains of HIV-1, though these areas are not as well monitored as the urban centers. In the present study, 82 specimens obtained in 2000 and 2001 from subjects living in the rural villages of the South and West Regions of Cameroon were subtyped in gag, pol, and env and compared to 90 specimens obtained in 2006-2008 in the same regions, in order to analyze HIV-1 evolution in these rural areas. It was found that in the South Region, the proportion of unique recombinant forms (URFs) remained constant (~40%), while the amount of URFs containing fragments of a CRF increased by 25%. (Sub)subtypes A1, F2, H, and K, and CRF09_cpx, identified in 2000 and 2001, were replaced by CRFs 01_AE, 13_cpx, 14_BG, and 18_cpx in 2006-2008. In the West Region, (sub)subtypes A2, C, G, and H, and CRFs 01_AE and 09_cpx, identified in 2000-2001, were replaced by sub-subtype A1 and CRFs 25_cpx and 37_cpx in 2006-2008. The proportion of URFs in the West Region dropped significantly over the time period by 43%. In both Regions, the proportion of CRF02_AG increased at all loci. These findings demonstrate that the evolution of HIV-1 is distinct for each endemic region, and suggests that the proportion of URFs containing CRF fragments is increasing as the genetic identity of the virus continues to shift dramatically. This highlights the concern that subtype specific vaccines may not be relevant in Cameroon, and that the distribution of viral diversity in these regions of Cameroon must be carefully monitored.
- HIV-1 diversity
- Rural Cameroon