Phylogenetic Transmission Clusters Among Newly Diagnosed Antiretroviral Drug-Naïve Patients with Human Immunodeficiency Virus-1 in Korea: A Study from 1999 to 2012

Population-level phylogenetic patterns reflect both transmission dynamics and genetic changes, which accumulate because of selection or drift. In this study, we determined whether a longitudinally sampled dataset derived from human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-1-infected individuals over a 14-year period (1999-2012) could shed light on the transmission processes involved in the initiation of the HIV-1 epidemic in Korea. In total, 927 sequences were acquired from 1999 to 2012; each sequence was acquired from an individual patient who had not received treatment. Sequences were used for drug resistance and phylogenetic analyses. Phylogenetic and other analyses were conducted using MEGA version 6.06 based on the GTR G+I parameter model and SAS. Of the 927 samples, 863 (93.1%) were classified as subtype B and 64 were classified as other subtypes. Phylogenetic analysis demonstrated that 104 of 927 patient samples (11.2%) were grouped into 37 clusters. Being part of a transmission cluster was significantly associated with subtype-B viruses, infection via sexual contact, and the infection of young males. Of all clusters, three (~8.1%) that comprised 10 individual samples (22.2% of 45 individuals) included at least one member with total transmitted drug resistance (TDR). In summary, HIV transmission cluster analyses can integrate laboratory data with behavioral data to enable the identification of key transmission patterns to develop tailored interventions aimed at interrupting transmission chains.