It is still debated if pre-existing minority drug-resistant HIV-1 variants (MVs) affect the virological outcomes of first-line NNRTI-containing ART.
This Europe-wide case–control study included ART-naive subjects infected with drug-susceptible HIV-1 as revealed by population sequencing, who achieved virological suppression on first-line ART including one NNRTI. Cases experienced virological failure and controls were subjects from the same cohort whose viraemia remained suppressed at a matched time since initiation of ART. Blinded, centralized 454 pyrosequencing with parallel bioinformatic analysis in two laboratories was used to identify MVs in the 1%–25% frequency range. ORs of virological failure according to MV detection were estimated by logistic regression.
Two hundred and sixty samples (76 cases and 184 controls), mostly subtype B (73.5%), were used for the analysis. Identical MVs were detected in the two laboratories. 31.6% of cases and 16.8% of controls harboured pre-existing MVs. Detection of at least one MV versus no MVs was associated with an increased risk of virological failure (OR = 2.75, 95% CI = 1.35–5.60, P = 0.005); similar associations were observed for at least one MV versus no NRTI MVs (OR = 2.27, 95% CI = 0.76–6.77, P = 0.140) and at least one MV versus no NNRTI MVs (OR = 2.41, 95% CI = 1.12–5.18, P = 0.024). A dose–effect relationship between virological failure and mutational load was found.
Pre-existing MVs more than double the risk of virological failure to first-line NNRTI-based ART.