Presence, persistence and effects of pre-treatment HIV-1 drug resistance variants detected using next generation sequencing: A Retrospective longitudinal study from rural coastal Kenya

Hassan AS, Bibby DF, Mwaringa SM, Agutu CA, Ndirangu KK, Sanders EJ, Cane PA, Mbisa JL, Berkley JA
PLoS One. 2019;14

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BACKGROUND: The epidemiology of HIV-1 drug resistance (HIVDR) determined by Sanger capillary sequencing, has been widely studied. However, much less is known about HIVDR detected using next generation sequencing (NGS) methods. We aimed to determine the presence, persistence and effect of pre-treatment HIVDR variants detected using NGS in HIV-1 infected antiretroviral treatment (ART) naive participants from rural Coastal Kenya. METHODS: In a retrospective longitudinal study, samples from HIV-1 infected participants collected prior [n = 2 time-points] and after [n = 1 time-point] ART initiation were considered. An ultra-deep amplicon-based NGS assay, calling for nucleotide variants at >2.0% frequency of viral population, was used. Suspected virologic failure (sVF) was defined as a one-off HIV-1 viral load of >1000 copies/ml whilst on ART. RESULTS: Of the 50 eligible participants, 12 (24.0% [95% CI: 13.1-38.2]) had at least one detectable pre-treatment HIVDR variant against Protease Inhibitors (PIs, n = 6 [12%]), Nucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors (NRTIs, n = 4 [8.0%]) and Non-NRTIs (n = 3 [6.0%]). Overall, 15 pre-treatment resistance variants were detected (frequency, range: 2.3-92.0%). A positive correlation was observed between mutation frequency and absolute load for NRTI and/or NNRTI variants (r = 0.761 [p = 0.028]), but not for PI variants (r = -0.117 [p = 0.803]). Participants with pre-treatment NRTI and/or NNRTI resistance had increased odds of sVF (OR = 6.0; 95% CI = 1.0-36.9; p = 0.054). CONCLUSIONS: Using NGS, pre-treatment resistance variants were common, though observed PI variants were unlikely transmitted, but rather probably generated de novo. Even when detected from a low frequency, pre-treatment NRTI and/or NNRTI resistance variants may adversely affect treatment outcomes.