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The high genetic heterogeneity of HIV-1 in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) constitutes a real challenge for the development of vaccines to counter the spread of the HIV-1 epidemic. It is important to continue to monitor the epidemic by studying the circulating strains and their impact on the overall spread. As part of the ongoing effort to study the global distribution of HIV-1 subtypes and circulating recombinant forms (CRFs), here we describe a new phylogenetic clade of HIV-1 by the analysis of two full-length sequences (83CD003 and 90CD121E12) collected from two individuals at a 7-year interval (1983 and 1990, respectively). One of the two sequences (90CD121E12) was obtained from a vertically infected, 12-month-old baby in Kimpese, rural DRC, an area with low and stable seroprevalence of HIV-1 in women attending antenatal clinics. The two sequences are genetically similar by 95% of their full genome and topologically form a distinct cluster that is equidistant from the existing subtypes (A through K) by the analysis of both the full genome and subgenomic regions. Furthermore, they share several other genetic features, including an additional pair of cysteine residues, predictive of an extra disulfide bridge, in the V4 loop of gp120. This new clade is currently rare, spreading at a slower pace than the other subtypes found in the DRC region. Pending the identification of at least one partial length sequence of the same lineage from another patient who is epidemiologically unlinked to those described here, this clade is not yet named as a subtype as per the recommendation of the nomenclature committee.

Original publication




Journal article


AIDS Res Hum Retroviruses

Publication Date





817 - 823


Amino Acid Sequence, Democratic Republic of the Congo, HIV-1, Humans, Phylogeny