AIDS. 2022 Nov 15;36(14):1949-1958. doi: 10.1097/QAD.0000000000003361. Epub 2022 Aug 18.
OBJECTIVES: Assess the impact of pre-treatment high-frequency and low-frequency drug-resistant HIV variants on long-term outcomes of first-line efavirenz-based antiretroviral therapy (ART).
DESIGN: Prospective observational study.
METHODS: Participants’ pre-treatment plasma RNA had two sections of HIV pol encoding reverse transcriptase sequenced (Illumina, MiSeq) using unique molecular identifiers to detect wild-type (pre-treatment drug-resistant variants less than 1% of viral quasispecies), low-frequency (1-9%) or high-frequency drug-resistant variants (10-100%). Associations between pre-treatment drug resistance and virologic outcomes over 24 months of efavirenz-based ART were assessed for the number and frequency of mutations by drug class and other resistance parameters.
RESULTS: Virologic failure was detected in 30 of 352 (9%) and pre-treatment drug-resistant variants were detected in the viral quasispecies of 31 of 352 (9%) participants prescribed efavirenz-based ART. Survival analyses revealed statistically significant associations between pre-treatment drug resistance at low (P < 0.0001) and high (P < 0.001) frequencies, at oligonucleotide ligation assay (OLA) (P < 0.00001) and non-OLA (P < 0.01) codons, to a single-antiretroviral class (P < 0.00001), and a shorter time to virologic failure of efavirenz-based ART. Regression analyses detected independent effects across resistance categories, including both low-frequency (P < 0.01) and high-frequency (P < 0.001) drug-resistant variants.
CONCLUSION: We observed that pre-treatment HIV drug resistance detected at low frequencies increased the risk of virologic failure over 24 months of efavirenz-based ART, but that most failures, regardless of drug-resistant variants’ frequencies, were detected within a year of ART initiation. These observations suggest that when efavirenz-based ART is prescribed, screening for pre-treatment drug resistance by an assay capable of detecting low-frequency variants, including OLA, may guide clinicians to prescribe more effective ART.