• Conserved signatures indicate HIV-1 transmission is under strong selection and thus is not a "stochastic" process

      Gonzalez, M.; DeVico, A.L.; Spouge, J.L. (BioMed Central Ltd., 2017)
      Recently, Oberle et al. published a paper in Retrovirology evaluating the question of whether selection plays a role in HIV transmission. The Oberle study found no obvious genotypic or phenotypic differences between donors and recipients of epidemiologically linked pairs from the Swiss cohort. Thus, Oberle et al. characterized HIV-1 B transmission as largely "stochastic", an imprecise and potentially misleading term. Here, we re-analyzed their data and placed them in the context of transmission data for over 20 other human and animal trials. The present study finds that the transmitted/founder (T/F) viruses from the Swiss cohort show the same non-random genetic signatures conserved in 118 HIV-1, 40 SHIV, and 12 SIV T/F viruses previously published by two independent groups. We provide alternative interpretations of the Swiss cohort data and conclude that the sequences of their donor viruses lacked variability at the specific sites where other studies were able to demonstrate genotypic selection. Oberle et al. observed no phenotypic selection in vitro, so the problem of determining the in vivo phenotypic mechanisms that cause genotypic selection in HIV remains open. Copyright 2017 The Author(s).