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Diverse forms of HIV-1 among Burmese long-distance truck drivers imply their contribution to HIV-1 cross-border transmission

Yan-Heng Zhou145, Yue-Bo Liang2, Wei Pang1, Wei-Hong Qin2, Zhi-Hong Yao14, Xin Chen14, Chiyu Zhang3* and Yong-Tang Zheng1*

Author Affiliations

1 Key Laboratory of Animal Models and Human Disease Mechanisms of Chinese Academy of Sciences & Yunnan Province, Kunming Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Kunming, Yunnan, China

2 Yunnan International Travel Healthcare Center, Kunming, Yunnan 650200, China

3 Pathogen Diagnostic Center, Institut Pasteur of Shanghai, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Shanghai 200025, China

4 University of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China

5 Shaanxi Engineering & Technological Research Center for Conversation & Utilization of Regional Biological Resources, College of Life Sciences, Yan’an University, Yan’an, Shaanxi 716000, China

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BMC Infectious Diseases 2014, 14:463  doi:10.1186/1471-2334-14-463

Published: 26 August 2014



The China-Myanmar border is a particularly interesting region that has very high prevalence of and considerable diversity of HIV-1 recombinants. Due to the transient nature of their work, long-distance truck drivers (LDTDs) have a comparatively high potential to become infected with HIV-1 and further spread virus to other individuals in the area they travel within. In this study, we hypothesized that Burmese LDTDs crossing the China-Myanmar border frequently may potentially be involved in the cross-border transmission of HIV, and contribute to the extremely high prevalence of HIV-1 inter-subtype recombinants in this border region.


A molecular epidemiology study was conducted among 105 Burmese LDTDs between 2008 and 2010. HIV-1 genetic fragments including p17, pol, vif-vpr, vpr-env, and C2V3 were amplified and sequenced. The subtype characterization and HIV-1 transmission were determined by both phylogenetic and phylogeographic analyses.


Diverse forms of HIV-1, including subtypes CRF01_AE (41.9%), C (8.6%), B (4.8%), CRF02_AG (1.0%), and inter-subtype recombinants (33.3%), as well as dual infection (10.5%), were detected among the tested LDTDs. Phylogeographic analyses based on pure subtype revealed that 77.8% Burmese LDTDs acquired HIV-1 infection in Yunnan, and the others in Myanmar. Both the C-related and CRF01_AE-related recombinants from these LDTDs appeared to have close genetic relationship with those from IDUs in Myanmar and Dehong.


Burmese LDTDs may contribute to HIV-1 transmission along the China-Myanmar border. The results may provide some new perspective for understanding the on-going generation and prevalence of HIV-1 recombinants in the border region.

LDTDs; HIV-1 subtype; Recombination; Transmission; China-Myanmar border