Evidence for Frequent Reinfection with Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 of a Different Subtype
Rainwater, Stephanie MJ
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A major premise underlying current human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) vaccine approaches is that preexisting HIV-1-specific immunity will block or reduce infection. However, the recent identification of several cases of HIV-1 reinfection suggests that the specific immune response generated for chronic HIV-1 infection may not be adequate to protect against infection by a second HIV-1 strain. It has been unclear, though, whether these individuals are representative of the global epidemic or are rare cases. Here we show that in a population of high-risk women, HIV-1 reinfection occurs almost as commonly as first infections. The study was designed to detect cases of reinfection by HIV-1 of a different subtype and thus captured cases where there was considerable diversity between the first and second strain. In each case, the second virus emerged ∼1 year after the first infection, and in two cases, it emerged when viral levels were high, suggesting that a well-established HIV-1 infection may provide little benefit in terms of immunizing against reinfection, at least by more-divergent HIV-1 variants. Our findings indicate an urgent need for studies of larger cohorts to determine the incidence and timing of both intersubtype and intrasubtype reinfection.