Several HIV-1 circulating recombinant forms with a complex mosaic structure (CRFs_cpx) circulate in central and western African regions. Here we reconstruct the evolutionary history of some of these complex CRFs (09_cpx, 11_cpx, 13_cpx and 45_cpx) and further investigate the dissemination dynamic of the CRF11_cpx clade by using a Bayesian coalescent-based method.
The analysis of two HIV-1 datasets comprising 181 pol (36 CRF09_cpx, 116 CRF11_cpx, 20 CRF13_cpx and 9 CRF45_cpx) and 125 env (12 CRF09_cpx, 67 CRF11_cpx, 17 CRF13_cpx and 29 CRF45_cpx) sequences pointed to quite consistent onset dates for CRF09_cpx (~1966: 1958-1979), CRF11_cpx (~1957: 1950-1966) and CRF13_cpx (~1965: 1958-1973) clades; while some divergence was found for the estimated date of origin of CRF45_cpx clade [pol = 1970 (1964-1976); env = 1960 (1952-1969)]. Phylogeographic reconstructions indicate that the HIV-1 CRF11_cpx clade most probably emerged in Cameroon and from there it was first disseminated to the Central Africa Republic and Chad in the early 1970s and to other central and western African countries from the early 1980s onwards. Demographic reconstructions suggest that the CRF11_cpx epidemic grew between 1960 and 1990 with a median exponential growth rate of 0.27 year(-1), and stabilized after.
These results reveal that HIV-1 CRFs_cpx clades have been circulating in Central Africa for a period comparable to other much more prevalent HIV-1 group M lineages. Cameroon was probably the epicenter of dissemination of the CRF11_cpx clade that seems to have experienced a long epidemic growth phase before stabilization. The epidemic growth of the CRF11_cpx clade was roughly comparable to other HIV-1 group M lineages circulating in Central Africa.