Male Circumcision and the Epidemic Emergence of HIV-2 in West Africa

João Dinis Sousa, Marina Padrão Temudo, Barry Stephen Hewlett, Ricardo Jorge Camacho, V. Müller, Anne Mieke Vandamme

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BACKGROUND: Epidemic HIV-2 (groups A and B) emerged in humans circa 1930-40. Its closest ancestors are SIVsmm infecting sooty mangabeys from southwestern Côte d'Ivoire. The earliest large-scale serological surveys of HIV-2 in West Africa (1985-91) show a patchy spread. Côte d'Ivoire and Guinea-Bissau had the highest prevalence rates by then, and phylogeographical analysis suggests they were the earliest epicenters. Wars and parenteral transmission have been hypothesized to have promoted HIV-2 spread. Male circumcision (MC) is known to correlate negatively with HIV-1 prevalence in Africa, but studies examining this issue for HIV-2 are lacking.

METHODS: We reviewed published HIV-2 serosurveys for 30 cities of all West African countries and obtained credible estimates of real prevalence through Bayesian estimation. We estimated past MC rates of 218 West African ethnic groups, based on ethnographic literature and fieldwork. We collected demographic tables specifying the ethnic partition in cities. Uncertainty was incorporated by defining plausible ranges of parameters (e.g. timing of introduction, proportion circumcised). We generated 1,000 sets of past MC rates per city using Latin Hypercube Sampling with different parameter combinations, and explored the correlation between HIV-2 prevalence and estimated MC rate (both logit-transformed) in the 1,000 replicates.

RESULTS AND CONCLUSIONS: Our survey reveals that, in the early 20th century, MC was far less common and geographically more variable than nowadays. HIV-2 prevalence in 1985-91 and MC rates in 1950 were negatively correlated (Spearman rho = -0.546, IQR: -0.553--0.546, p≤0.0021). Guinea-Bissau and Côte d'Ivoire cities had markedly lower MC rates. In addition, MC was uncommon in rural southwestern Côte d'Ivoire in 1930.The differential HIV-2 spread in West Africa correlates with different historical MC rates. We suggest HIV-2 only formed early substantial foci in cities with substantial uncircumcised populations. Lack of MC in rural areas exposed to bushmeat may have had a role in successful HIV-2 emergence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e0166805
JournalPLoS One
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)

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    Sousa, J. D., Temudo, M. P., Hewlett, B. S., Camacho, R. J., Müller, V., & Vandamme, A. M. (2016). Male Circumcision and the Epidemic Emergence of HIV-2 in West Africa. PLoS One, 11(12), e0166805.