HIV’s march around Europe mapped

Those travelling abroad should take seriously advice to pack their condoms and keep their needles to themselves: research published today in the open access journal Retrovirology shows that tourists, travellers and migrants from Greece, Portugal, Serbia and Spain actively export HIV-1 subtype B to other European nations.

An international team of scientists used samples from 17 European countries to construct a viral phylogeography ? a geographic pattern of genetic information taken from viruses at a number of locations that can be used to track how and when it spread (this technique has recently been applied to the bird flu virus H5N1.) HIV-1 subtype B is the most prevalent form of the HIV virus circulating in Europe today.

The results showed that for three countries (Austria, Poland and Luxembourg) no significant exporting migration was observed. Whereas Greece, Portugal, Serbia and Spain were a source of subtype B to other countries. Notably, the virus spread widely from Greece and Spain to seven and five target countries respectively. Other countries had narrower targets, with Italy exporting HIV to Austria, and Portugal passing the virus primarily to Luxembourg (some 13% of Luxembourg’s population is Portuguese). Other nations such as Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany and Luxembourg showed only limited export of HIV-1 subtype B, while for Italy, Israel, Norway, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK the authors inferred significant bidirectional migration. For Poland no significant migration was found.

According to the first author, Dimitrios Paraskevis, ‘Popular tourist destinations like Greece, Portugal and Spain probably spread HIV with tourists infected during their holidays. To a large extent HIV spread within Poland is due to injecting drug users, who make up around half of the HIV-infected population. Viruses move around with travellers ? thus health programmes within countries should not only target the national populations, prevention efforts must also be aimed at migrants, travellers and tourists ? who are both major sources and targets of HIV.’

Notes to Editors

1. Article:

Tracing the HIV-1 subtype B mobility in Europe: a phylogeographic approach

Dimitrios Paraskevis, Oliver Pybus, Gkikas Magiorkinis, Angelos Hatzakis, Annemarie MJ Wensing, David A van de Vijver, Jan Albert, Guiseppe Angarano, Birgitta Äsjö, Claudia Balotta, Enzo Boeri, Ricardo Camacho, Marie-Laure Chaix, Suzie Coughlan, Dominique Costagliola, Andrea DeLuca, Carlos de Mendoza, Inge Derdelinckx, Zehava Grossman, Osama Hamouda, I M Hoepelman, Andrzej Horban, Klaus Korn, Claudia Kuecherer, Thomas Leitner, Clive Loveday, Eilidh Macrae, I Maljkovic, Laurence Meyer, Claus Nielsen, Eline LM Op de Coul, Vidar Ormaasen, Luc Perrin, Elisabeth Puchhammer-Stöckl, Lidia Ruiz, Mika Salminen, Jean-Claude Schmit, Rob Schuurman, Vincent Soriano, J Stanczak, Maja Stanojevic, Daniel Struck, Kristel Van Laethem, M Violin, Sabine Yerly, Maurizio Zazzi, Charles A Boucher and Anne-Mieke Vandamme

Retrovirology (in press)

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2. With regard to the spatial dispersal of the HIV subtype B sequences across viral phylogenies, in most of the countries in Europe the epidemic was introduced by multiple sources and subsequently spread within local networks. Poland provides an exception where most of the infections were the result of a single point introduction.

3. A map demonstrating the spread of HIV can be found here:

4. Retrovirology is a stringently peer-reviewed journal edited by Kuan-Teh Jeang (USA), Monsef Benkirane (France), Ben Berkhout (the Netherlands), Masahiro Fujii (Japan), Michael Lairmore (USA), Andrew Lever (UK), and Mark Wainberg (Canada) with the assistance of an internationally renowned Editorial Board. Retrovirology has an Impact Factor of 4.04. Read all the latest news from Retrovirology, on the Retrovirology blog:

5. In conjunction with BioMed Central, Retrovirology is hosting Frontiers of Retrovirology ? Complex Retroviruses, retroelements and their hosts conference in Montpellier, France, September 21 to 23, 2009. This conference will bring together leading human retrovirus researchers to review current progress and to chart future challenges.

6. BioMed Central ( is an STM (Science, Technology and Medicine) publisher which has pioneered the open access publishing model. All peer-reviewed research articles published by BioMed Central are made immediately and freely accessible online, and are licensed to allow redistribution and reuse. BioMed Central is part of Springer Science+Business Media, a leading global publisher in the STM sector.

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