Phenotypic and genotypic analyses to guide selection of reverse transcriptase inhibitors in second-line HIV therapy following extended virological failure in Uganda

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We investigated phenotypic and genotypic resistance after 2 years of first-line therapy with two HIV treatment regimens in the absence of virological monitoring.


NORA [Nevirapine OR Abacavir study, a sub-study of the Development of AntiRetroviral Therapy in Africa (DART) trial] randomized 600 symptomatic HIV-infected Ugandan adults (CD4 cell count <200 cells/mm3) to receive zidovudine/lamivudine plus abacavir (cABC arm) or nevirapine (cNVP arm). All virological tests were performed retrospectively, including resistance tests on week 96 plasma samples with HIV RNA levels ≥1000 copies/mL. Phenotypic resistance was expressed as fold-change in IC50 (FC) relative to wild-type virus.


HIV-1 RNA viral load ≥1000 copies/mL at week 96 was seen in 58/204 (28.4%) cABC participants and 21/159 (13.2%) cNVP participants. Resistance results were available in 35 cABC and 17 cNVP participants; 31 (89%) cABC and 16 (94%) cNVP isolates had a week 96 FC below the biological cut-off for tenofovir (2.2). In the cNVP arm, 16/17 participants had resistance mutations synonymous with high-level resistance to nevirapine and efavirenz; FC values for etravirine were above the biological cut-off in 9 (53%) isolates. In multivariate regression models, K65R, Y115F and the presence of thymidine analogue-associated mutations were associated with increased susceptibility to etravirine in the cABC arm.


Our data support the use of tenofovir following failure of a first-line zidovudine-containing regimen and shed further light on non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor hypersusceptibility.

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