2. Molecular epidemiology

Antigenic drift and shift

In close collaboration with the Chinese CDC (Prof. Yiming Shao) and funded by 2 European research grants (CHIVAC I & II), we started more than 15 years ago to study the spread and molecular characteristics of various HIV clades within China. The goal of these studies was (i) to molecularly characterize the circulating virus strains, (ii) to follow up alterations in regulatory and coding sequences over time and (iii) to select a representative virus strain as template for vaccine development. Based on extensive sequence analysis of several 100 virus isolates and molecular cloning of selected virtually full length genomes, essentially two dominating virus clades were found to circulate troughout China: (1) Clade B strain, which underwent a genetic drift from prototype B virus to subtype B' Thai between 1990 and 1998. (2) Clade C virus strain, which today accounts for the most frequent new infections in China and shows minimal genetic distance to clade C virus strains predominating in India (6,32%) and Latin America (8.21%). Sequence analysis of Chinese clade C molecular clones revealed mosaic genomes originating from serial interclade recombination events between Indian subtype C virus and a subtype B' Thai representative. Based on these analyses, a clade C virus strain, 97CN54, known to represent the upcoming clade C epidemic in Asia has been selected as template for the design of vaccines and microbicides in various european networks (CHIVAC, EuroVacc, DecVac, NIH, others).

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We permanently offer several opportunities for students to conduct research projects in the context of `Forschungs- und Schwerpunktpraktika┬┤.
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