Differences in the cellular immune system in different human populations are now known to influence a virus’s evolution. A virus will adapt and may ultimately form subtypes to escape common antiviral immune responses.
For the first time, in a paper published in Virus Evolution, Professor Astrid Iversen of the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences at the University of Oxford and collaborators have shown a strong link between ethnic diversity in African countries and the diversity of HIV-1 p24Gag and HIV-1 subtypes.
By analysing the HIV-B epidemic in the USA, they also reveal that viral evolution is ongoing and is affected by the continuously increasing proportion of African Americans in the HIV-infected population over time. This result underscores how inequalities in health care can affect pathogen evolution if a specific ethnic group is disproportionately disadvantaged.