Dual-strain genital herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) infection in the US, Peru, and 8 countries in sub-Saharan Africa: A nested cross-sectional viral genotyping study.

Publication Type:

Journal Article


PLoS medicine, Volume 14, Issue 12, p.e1002475 (2017)


Bioinformatics Core Facility, Genomics Core Facility


BACKGROUND: Quantitative estimation of the extent to which the immune system's protective effect against one herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) infection protects against infection with additional HSV-2 strains is important for understanding the potential for HSV-2 vaccine development. Using viral genotyping, we estimated the prevalence of HSV-2 dual-strain infection and identified risk factors. METHODS AND FINDINGS: People with and without HIV infection participating in HSV-2 natural history studies (University of Washington Virology Research Clinic) and HIV prevention trials (HIV Prevention Trials Network 039 and Partners in Prevention HSV/HIV Transmission Study) in the US, Africa, and Peru with 2 genital specimens each containing ≥105 copies herpes simplex virus DNA/ml collected a median of 5 months apart (IQR: 2-11 months) were included. It is unlikely that 2 strains would be detected in the same sample simultaneously; therefore, 2 samples were required to detect dual-strain infection. We identified 85 HSV-2 SNPs that, in aggregate, could determine whether paired HSV-2 strains were the same or different with >90% probability. These SNPs were then used to create a customized high-throughput array-based genotyping assay. Participants were considered to be infected with more than 1 strain of HSV-2 if their samples differed by ≥5 SNPs between the paired samples, and dual-strain infection was confirmed using high-throughput sequencing (HTS). We genotyped pairs of genital specimens from 459 people; 213 (46%) were men, the median age was 34 years (IQR: 27-44), and 130 (28%) were HIV seropositive. Overall, 272 (59%) people were from the US, 59 (13%) were from Peru, and 128 (28%) were from 8 countries in Africa. Of the 459 people, 18 (3.9%) met the criteria for dual-strain infection. HTS and phylogenetic analysis of paired specimens confirmed shedding of 2 distinct HSV-2 strains collected at different times in 17 pairs, giving an estimated dual-strain infection prevalence of 3.7% (95% CI = 2.0%-5.4%). Paired samples with dual-strain infection differed by a median of 274 SNPs in the UL_US region (range 129-413). Matching our observed dual-strain infection frequency to simulated data of varying prevalences and allowing only 2 samples per person, we inferred the true prevalence of dual-strain infection to be 7%. In multivariable analysis, controlling for HIV status and continent of origin, people from Africa had a higher risk for dual-strain infection (risk ratio [RR] = 9.20, 95% CI = 2.05-41.32), as did people who were HIV seropositive (RR = 4.06, 95% CI = 1.42-11.56). CONCLUSIONS: HSV-2 dual-strain infection was detected in 3.7% of paired samples from individual participants, and was more frequent among people with HIV infection. Simulations suggest that the true prevalence of dual-strain infection is 7%. Our data indicate that naturally occurring immunity to HSV-2 may be protective against infection with a second strain. This study is limited by the inability to determine the timing of acquisition of the second strain.