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A relatively low and stable seroprevalence of HIV-1 was previously reported among pregnant women attending for antenatal care between 1988 and 1993 in Kimpese, a rural town in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC, formerly Zaire). To characterize the HIV-1 subtypes circulating in this area, we have examined a 330-bp fragment of the p17 region of the gag gene of HIV-1 strains obtained from 70 patients (55 mothers, 15 children), of whom 61 were epidemiologically unlinked. Phylogenetic analyses revealed the existence of at least seven HIV-1 subtypes within the Kimpese region. Among the 61 epidemiologically unlinked patients, subtype A was predominant and found in 29 (47.5%) individuals. Other subtypes cocirculating in this rural part of DRC include subtypes C (1.6%), D (9.8%), F (3.2%), G (6.5%), H (21.3%), and J (4.9%). Sequences from four patients did not cluster with any of the currently documented HIV-1 subtypes, in analyses of fragments of both the gag (247 to 330 bp, 197 bp, and 310 bp) and env (340 bp) genes. Overall, comparisons of the gag(p17) gene regions revealed high pairwise divergences (mean, 19.9%; range, 1 to 46%). This level of gag(p17) gene variation in the DRC is considerably greater than previously appreciated. These results are relevant for the molecular epidemiology of HIV-1 in Africa and for the design of a future vaccine against HIV-1 in this region.

Original publication




Journal article


AIDS Res Hum Retroviruses

Publication Date





655 - 664


Adolescent, Adult, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Female, Genes, env, Genes, gag, Genetic Variation, HIV Infections, HIV-1, Humans, Infant, Infant, Newborn, Infectious Disease Transmission, Vertical, Phylogeny, Pregnancy, Pregnancy Complications, Infectious, Rural Health, Sequence Analysis, DNA