Dynamic HIV-1 genetic recombination and genotypic drug resistance among treatment-experienced adults in northern Ghana

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There have been hardly any reports on the human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) drug-resistance profile from northern Ghana since antiretroviral therapy (ART) was introduced over a decade ago. This study investigated prevailing HIV-1 subtypes and examined the occurrence of drug resistance in ART-experienced patients in Tamale, the capital of the Northern Region of Ghana.


A cross-sectional study was carried out on HIV-infected adult patients receiving first-line ART. HIV viral load (VL) and CD4+ T-cell counts were measured. The pol gene sequences were analysed for genotypic resistance by an in-house HIV-1 drug-resistance test; the prevailing HIV-1 subtypes were analysed in detail.

Results/Key findings.

A total of 33 subjects were studied. Participants comprised 11 males (33.3%) and 22 (66.7%) females, with a median age of 34.5 years [interquartile range (IQR) 30.0-40.3]. The median duration on ART was 12 months (IQR 8.0-24). Of the 24 subjects successfully genotyped, 10 (41.7%) viruses possessed at least one mutation conferring resistance to nucleoside or non-nucleoside reverse-transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs/NNRTIs). Two-class drug resistance to NRTI and NNRTI was mostly detected (25%, 6/24). The most frequent mutations were lamivudine-resistance M184V and efavirenz/nevirapine-resistance K103N. HIV-1 subtype CRF02_AG was predominant (79.2%). Other HIV-1 subtypes detected were G (8.3%), A3 (4.2%) and importantly two (8.3%) unique HIV-1 recombinant forms with CRF02_AG/A3 mosaic.


HIV-1 shows high genetic diversity and on-going viral genetic recombination in the study region. Nearly 42% of the patients studied harboured a drug-resistant virus. The study underscores the need for continued surveillance of HIV-1 subtype diversity; and of drug-resistance patterns to guide selection of second-line regimens in northern Ghana.

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