Phenotypic drug susceptibility testing was performed to ascertain the drug sensitivity and resistance profiles of different viral subtypes. The baseline IC50 values for tenofovir sensitivity of the four subtype C isolates was 0.48 ± 0.18 μmol, within a similar range, 0.25 ± 0.15 μmol was observed for subtype B infections. Subtype C and CRF1_AE viruses harbouring K65R were assayed for their relative susceptibility to tenofovir and nucleoside analogues. As shown in Fig. 2, all variants harbouring K65R showed similar 6.5 to 10-fold resistance to tenofovir. These viruses also showed 8–22 ×, 10–23 ×, and 3–16 × levels of resistance to abacavir, lamivudine and didanosine, respectively. These viruses all remained susceptible to zidovudine.
There are potential limitations in extrapolating in-vitro selection data to the in-vivo situation. Site-directed mutagenesis studies in which the AAA codon 65 of a subtype B clone is replaced by AAG and in which the AAG at codon 65 in subtype C viruses is replaced by AAA are ongoing. Previous work showing that a V106M substitution in subtype C viruses is selected by efavirenz provides proof of concept that in-vitro findings may be reflected in the clinical setting . Several recent studies have shown non-responsiveness to tenofovir/lamivudine/abacavir regimens, leading to the rapid appearance of K65R in 48–68% of patients [24,25]. In contrast, the 934 study showed clinical benefit of a tenofovir/emtricitabine/efavirenz regimen with no appearance of K65R . Such studies demonstrated that drug potency, low genetic barrier to tenofovir resistance, and physiological factors may all contribute to differential responsiveness to tenofovir . Our study highlights the need for careful evaluation of tenofovir-based regimens in subtype C infections.
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