Vadim Puller, Richard Neher and Jan Albert
PLOS Computational Biology, vol. 13, e1005775, 2017
Author summary HIV-1 establishes a chronic infection, which may last for many years before the infected person is diagnosed. The resulting uncertainty in the date of infection leads to difficulties in estimating the number of infected but undiagnosed persons as well as the number of new infections, which is necessary for developing appropriate public health policies and interventions. Such estimates would be much easier if the time since HIV-1 infection for newly diagnosed cases could be accurately estimated. Three types of biomarkers have been shown to contain information about the time since HIV-1 infection, but unfortunately, they only distinguish between recent and long-term infections (concentration of HIV-1-specific antibodies) or are imprecise (immune status as measured by levels of CD4+ T-lymphocytes and viral sequence diversity measured by polymorphisms in Sanger sequences). In this paper, we show that recent advances in sequencing technologies, i.e. the development of next generation sequencing, enable significantly more precise determination of the time since HIV-1 infection, even many years after the infection event. This is a significant advance which could translate into more effective HIV-1 prevention.