Objective: To study the prevalence of multiple dideoxynucleoside (ddN)-resistant (MddNR) HIV-1 in European patients under treatment with multiple ddN analogues, and to characterize MddNR strains genotypically and phenotypically.
Design and methods: Blood samples from patients after ≥ 6 months of treatment with multiple ddN were screened for the MddNR mutation Q 151M. After confirmation of MddNR in 15 patients from five European countries, genotypic resistance was evaluated by DNA sequencing of the reverse transcriptase (RT) gene. Phenotypic resistance was measured by the recombinant virus assay. Results were compared with the clinical evolution of the patients.
Results: The prevalence of MddNR strains in European patients treated with multiple ddN analogues was 3.5%. Viruses typically contained amino acid substitutions V75F, F77L, F116Y and Q151M in the RT gene. A new mutation, S68G, was frequently associated with MddNR. Phenotypically, viruses displayed high-level resistance to zidovudine (ZDV), didanosine (ddl), zalcitabine (ddC), stavudine (d4T) and partial resistance to lamivudine (3TC) once multiple mutations were present. Under in-vivo treatment pressure, some MddNR strains additionally developed resistance to protease inhibitors or non-nucleoside RT inhibitors (NNRTI). Clinically, most patients had advanced HIV disease with low CD4 cell counts, high viral loads and a rapid progression, but two patients harbouring MddNR virus responded well to dual protease inhibitor associations.
Conclusions: MddNR resistant HIV-1 can be found in European patients. MddNR is characterized by a specific set of drug resistance mutations, cross-resistance to most ddN analogues and a fast clinical progression. MddNR can be associated with protease inhibitor or NNRTI resistance.