Background: Data on the subtypes of HIV in a population help in predicting the potential foci of epidemic, tracking the routes of infection and following the patterns of the virus' genetic divergence. Globally, the most prevalent HIV infection is the HIV-1 subtype C. In Asia, predominant subtypes of HIV-1 are B, C, and CRF-01AE. During the last few years, HIV prevalence in Pakistan has taken the form of a concentrated epidemic in at least two high risk groups, namely, Intravenous Drug Users (IDUs) and Male Sex Workers (MSWs). Factors that have facilitated the proliferation of HIV infection include transmission through a large number of repatriates and needle-sharing intravenous drug users, unscreened blood transfusions, and sexual illiteracy. The HIV subtypes infecting Pakistani populations have not been explored to date. In this study, we analyzed HIV-I subtypes from in a high-risk community of IDUs in Karachi, the largest city of Pakistan. Methods: Samples were collected from 34 IDUs after their informed consent. In addition, the study subjects were administered a questionnaire regarding their sexual behavior and travel history. For HIV analysis, DNA was extracted from the samples and analyzed for HIV types and subtypes using subtype-specific primers in a nested polymerase chain reaction (PCR). The results from this PCR were further confirmed using the Heteroduplex Mobility Assay (HMA). Results: We found HIV-1 subtype A in all the 34 samples analyzed. A few of the study subjects were found to have a history of travel and stay in the United Arab Emirates. The same subjects also admitted to having contact with commercial sex workers during their stay abroad. Conclusion: Our study therefore shows clade A HIV-1 to be prevalent among the IDUs in Karachi. As the prevalence of HIV in Pakistan continues to rise, more work needs to be done to track the infection, and to analyze the strains of HIV spreading through the country.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Infectious Diseases