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Assessment of the accuracy of different phylogenetic methods for HIV-1 contact tracing and HIV-1 molecular epidemiology in Greece


HIV-1 is one of the most genetically variable human pathogens. Given this extremely high evolutionary rate of the virus, we can trace the recent spread of the HIV-1 epidemic using molecular data. Phylogenetic analyses have been used in monitoring the molec ular epidemiology of HIV-1 at a global scale, within single countries and risk groups, or for the investigation of the HIV-1 transmission in several cases of uncertain histories. The accuracy of different phylogenetic methods, to truly reconstruct HIV-1 ep idemiological relationships, has been previously investigated by analyzing DNA sequences from patients, for which the transmission events and dates were accurately known. (HIV-1 Swedish transmission chain) Although analyses of DNA sequences isolated from p atients infected from a single source (transmission chains) provide valuable information about the evolution of the virus after sequential transmissions, as well as about the levels of concordance between the evolutionary tree and the transmission tree; th ey don¿t provide evidence about the ability of different phylogenetic methods to truly reconstruct potential clusters of epidemiologically closely linked patients within a population. It is our objective to address the latter question, by analyzing HIV-1 s equences isolated from individuals, for which the close epidemiological link has been independently documented, including also sequences from diverse origin; thus searching for the optimal methodology for HIV-1 contact tracing. Moreover, we will perform a molecular epidemiology study of HIV-1 infection in Greece; investigating how the epidemic spreads among and within different transmission risk groups, and inferring the intermixing (migration) rates of viral infection between the Greek residents and immigr ants or contacts from Africa, Europe, or other geographic areas, and vice versa.

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