Antiretroviral therapy (ART) has become more available throughout the developing world during the past five years. The World Health Organization recommends nonnucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor-based regimens as initial ART. However, their efficacy may be compromised by resistance mutations selected by single-dose nevirapine (sdNVP) used to prevent mother-to-child-transmission of HIV-1 (PMTCT). There is no simple and efficient method to detect such mutations at initiation of ART.
181 women participating in a PMTCT clinical trial who started NVP-ART after they had received sdNVP or placebo were tested for nevirapine-resistance point-mutations (K103N, Y181C, and G190A) using 100 copies of HIV-1 DNA with a sensitive oligonucleotide ligation assay (OLA) able to detect mutants at low concentrations (≥5% of the viral population). Virologic failure was defined as plasma HIV-1 RNA confirmed >50 copies/mL between 6–18 months of NVP-ART.
At initiation of NVP-ART, resistance mutations were identified in 26% of 148 participants given sdNVP (K103N-13%, Y181C-5%, G190A-19%; ≥2 mutations-10%) at a median 9.3 months after sdNVP. The risk of virologic failure was .62 (95% confidence interval (CI), 0.46–0.77) in women with ≥1 resistance mutation, compared to 0.25 (95% CI, 0.17–0.35) in those without detectable resistance mutations (P<.0001). Failure was independently associated with resistance, an interval of <6 months between sdNVP and NVP-ART initiation, and a viral load above the median at NVP-ART initiation.
Access to simple and inexpensive assays to detect low-concentrations of NVP-resistant HIV-1 DNA prior to the initiation of ART could help improve the outcome of first-line antiretroviral therapy.