Background: Human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1)-infected individuals typically harbor mixtures of HIV-1 variants. For HIV-1 transmission studies, methods used for genotypic analysis should reliably detect variant mixtures. Such studies typically analyze complementary DNAs (cDNAs) from a single polymerase chain reaction (PCR) amplification. This approach may fail to detect variant mixtures in some samples because of analytic bias. Methods: To evaluate the impact of analytic bias on the detection of HIV-1 variants, we analyzed samples from a mother and infant known to contain both subtypes A and D HIV-1. The env third variable region of HIV-1 gp120 (V3 region) was amplified and cloned in five replicate experiments using a single plasma sample from each individual. Ten cDNAs from each experiment were analyzed. Results: The subtype mixture was detected in only four of 10 amplification experiments (three of five for the mother and one of five for the infant). Sequencing of uncloned PCR products showed that a single subtype, either A or D, was preferentially amplified in each experiment. However, the subtype mixture was detected for each sample by analyzing the five replicate experiments as a group. Conclusions: This shows that mixtures of HIV-1 variants may be more readily detected when replicate amplification reactions are analyzed. This approach may be useful for characterizing HIV-1 variants for studies of HIV-1 transmission.
- Dual infection
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