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1.  Early clinical response and presence of viral resistant minority variants: a proof of concept study 
Journal of the International AIDS Society  2014;17(4Suppl 3):19759.
Traditional genotyping assays detect viral variants present in at least 15–25% of the entire virus population. We tested the Next generation GS Junior System (NGS) setted with a detection limit of 0.05% and evaluated the clinical relevance of low prevalent mutations.
NGS was performed on the plasma of 26 infected individuals who started a TDF/FTC/RPV (15 subjects) or TDF/FTC/EFV (11 subjects) cART after a routine HIV-1 drug-resistance negative test by Viroseq HIV-1 Genotyping System. Amplicon Sequencing of HIV-1 RT and PR Plate (Roche) was performed following the manufacturer's instructions. HIV-1 variants were analyzed by a specific HIV-1 tool by AVA software v. 2.7. The updated IAS resistance mutations list (March 2013) was considered for the analysis of resistance positions. Patients were followed testing viral load and immunologic parameters.
Twenty four males and two females with a mean age of 43 years were included. Twenty-one were nave for cART. At baseline, median HIV-RNA was 4.57 log copies/mL (range 2.15–6.57) and CD4 count 315 cells/mcL (range 16–648). In 18 patients, NGS did not detect any additional variant relevant for the selected cART compared to population genotyping. In the remaining eight patients resistance conferring mutations to part of the ongoing regimen were detected. Single mutations E138K (two cases) and M184V in three distinct patients and V90I+G190E; M184V+A98S; Y215F+V118I+T215I; L210S+T215I+F227L; and A62V+D67G+K70N+188H in the remaining five subjects. In all cases, the mutation prevalence was inferior to 5%. The mean daily reduction of VL was −3759 copies/mL in patients without NGS detected mutations and −1045 copies/mL in those with mutations. The median KM estimates for reaching an HIV-RNA blood level <50 copies/mL were 127 days and 161 days, respectively. One patient without baseline resistance selected for M184I+E138K+T215I (NGS) after four months of TDF/FTC/RPV therapy.
NGS detected low-frequency HIV-1 variants harbouring RT drug resistance mutations that could have affected the therapy outcome. However, viral decay in an early cART phase was not affected by the presence of resistant minority variants. The low prevalence of the detected mutation, the limited effect on the combination regimen and the potency of cART components could be possible explanations of our findings. Longer follow-up and larger casuistries are needed to determine the clinical relevance of NGS in routine clinical practice and eventually define a clinically relevant mutations' prevalence.
PMCID: PMC4225251  PMID: 25397504
2.  Molecular Epidemiology of HIV Type 1 CRF02_AG in Cameroon and African Patients Living in Italy 
AIDS Research and Human Retroviruses  2011;27(11):1173-1182.
HIV-1 CRF02_AG accounts for >50% of infected individuals in Cameroon. CRF02_AG prevalence has been increasing both in Africa and Europe, particularly in Italy because of migrations from the sub-Saharan region. This study investigated the molecular epidemiology of CRF02_AG in Cameroon by employing Bayesian phylodynamics and analyzed the relationship between HIV-1 CRF02_AG isolates circulating in Italy and those prevalent in Africa to understand the link between the two epidemics. Among 291 Cameroonian reverse transcriptase sequences analyzed, about 70% clustered within three distinct clades, two of which shared a most recent common ancestor, all related to sequences from Western Africa. The major Cameroonian clades emerged during the mid-1970s and slowly spread during the next 30 years. Little or no geographic structure was detected within these clades. One of the major driving forces of the epidemic was likely the high accessibility between locations in Southern Cameroon contributing to the mobility of the population. The remaining Cameroonian sequences and the new strains isolated from Italian patients were interspersed mainly within West and Central African sequences in the tree, indicating a continuous exchange of CRF02_AG viral strains between Cameroon and other African countries, as well as multiple independent introductions in the Italian population. The evaluation of the spread of CRF02_AG may provide significant insight about the future dynamics of the Italian and European epidemic.
PMCID: PMC3206741  PMID: 21453131
3.  A Prognostic Model for Estimating the Time to Virologic Failure in HIV-1 Infected Patients Undergoing a New Combination Antiretroviral Therapy Regimen 
HIV-1 genotypic susceptibility scores (GSSs) were proven to be significant prognostic factors of fixed time-point virologic outcomes after combination antiretroviral therapy (cART) switch/initiation. However, their relative-hazard for the time to virologic failure has not been thoroughly investigated, and an expert system that is able to predict how long a new cART regimen will remain effective has never been designed.
We analyzed patients of the Italian ARCA cohort starting a new cART from 1999 onwards either after virologic failure or as treatment-naïve. The time to virologic failure was the endpoint, from the 90th day after treatment start, defined as the first HIV-1 RNA > 400 copies/ml, censoring at last available HIV-1 RNA before treatment discontinuation. We assessed the relative hazard/importance of GSSs according to distinct interpretation systems (Rega, ANRS and HIVdb) and other covariates by means of Cox regression and random survival forests (RSF). Prediction models were validated via the bootstrap and c-index measure.
The dataset included 2337 regimens from 2182 patients, of which 733 were previously treatment-naïve. We observed 1067 virologic failures over 2820 persons-years. Multivariable analysis revealed that low GSSs of cART were independently associated with the hazard of a virologic failure, along with several other covariates. Evaluation of predictive performance yielded a modest ability of the Cox regression to predict the virologic endpoint (c-index≈0.70), while RSF showed a better performance (c-index≈0.73, p < 0.0001 vs. Cox regression). Variable importance according to RSF was concordant with the Cox hazards.
GSSs of cART and several other covariates were investigated using linear and non-linear survival analysis. RSF models are a promising approach for the development of a reliable system that predicts time to virologic failure better than Cox regression. Such models might represent a significant improvement over the current methods for monitoring and optimization of cART.
PMCID: PMC3144446  PMID: 21672248
4.  Comparison of MB/BacT ALERT 3D System with Radiometric BACTEC System and Löwenstein-Jensen Medium for Recovery and Identification of Mycobacteria from Clinical Specimens: a Multicenter Study 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2001;39(2):651-657.
The MB/BacT ALERT 3D System (MB/BacT) (Organon Teknika, Boxtel, The Netherlands) is a fully automated, nonradiometric system with a revised antibiotic supplement kit designed for the recovery of mycobacteria from clinical specimens. In a multicenter study, the recovery rate of acid-fast bacilli (AFB) and the mean time to their detection from clinical specimens was determined by using the MB/BacT system. Data were compared to those assessed by the radiometric BACTEC 460 system (B460) and by culture on Löwenstein-Jensen (L-J) solid medium. A total of 2,859 respiratory and extrapulmonary specimens were processed by the N-acetyl-l-cysteine (NALC)-NaOH method using two different concentrations of sodium hydroxide; 1.5% was adopted in study design A (1,766 specimens), and 1.0% was used in study design B (1,093 specimens). The contamination rates for MB/BacT were 4.6% (study design A) and 7.1% (study design B). One hundred seventy-nine mycobacterial isolates were detected by study design A, with 148 Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex (MTB) isolates and 31 nontuberculous mycobacteria (NTM) isolates. Overall recovery rates were 78.8% for MB/BacT (P = 0.0049), 64.2% for L-J (P < 0.0001), and 87.1% for B460, whereas they were 84.5, 70.9, and 91.2%, respectively, for MTB alone. A total of 125 mycobacteria were detected by study design B, with 46 MTB and 79 NTM. Overall recovery rates by the individual systems were 57.6% (P = 0.0002), 56.8% (P = 0.0001), and 80% for MB/BacT, L-J, and B460, respectively, whereas the rates were 91.3, 78.3, and 97.8% for MTB alone. By study design A, the mean times to detection of smear-positive MTB, smear-negative MTB, and NTM were 11.5, 19.9, and 19.6 days, respectively, with the MB/BacT; 8.3, 16.8, and 16.6 days, respectively, with the B460; and 20.6, 32.1, and 27.8 days, respectively, with L-J medium. By study design B, the mean times were 15.1, 26.7, and 26 days with the MB/BacT; 11.7, 21.3, and 24.8 days with the B460; and 20.4, 28.7, and 28.4 days with L-J medium. Identification was attempted by probing (Accuprobe) MB/BacT-positive bottles within the first working day following instrument positive flag. Results were compared to those obtained in the B460 positive vials by the p-nitro-α-acetylamino-β-hydroxypropiophenone (NAP) test (study design A) or by the Accuprobe assay (study design B). About 90% of MTB and 100% of NTM could be identified, showing turnaround times closely related to those obtained by combining B460 and the NAP test or the Accuprobe assay. In conclusion, even though recovery rates were shown to be lower than B460, especially for NTM, and contaminants were somewhat higher, MB/BacT represents a valuable alternative to the radiometric system, especially in those laboratories where disposal of radioactive waste is restricted. Finally, when AFB are cultured in nonradiometric liquid media, our data (detection times and bacterial overgrowth rates) suggest that decontamination with 1.5% NaOH may be more suitable than the standard NALC-NaOH.
PMCID: PMC87793  PMID: 11158124
5.  Comparative Evaluation of the New Gen-Probe Mycobacterium tuberculosis Amplified Direct Test and the Semiautomated Abbott LCx Mycobacterium tuberculosis Assay for Direct Detection of Mycobacterium tuberculosis Complex in Respiratory and Extrapulmonary Specimens 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  1998;36(12):3601-3604.
Two commercial assays that detect Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex (MTB) in clinical specimens by rRNA target amplification (AMTDII) and ligase chain reaction (LCx) were evaluated. The tests were applied to 457 respiratory (n = 273) and extrapulmonary (n = 184) specimens collected from 357 patients. The results were compared with those of acid-fast staining and culture. The combination of culture and clinical diagnosis was considered to be the “gold standard.” Seventy specimens were from patients with pulmonary tuberculosis and 28 specimens were from patients with extrapulmonary tuberculosis. After resolution of discrepant results, the overall sensitivities, specificities, and positive and negative predictive values for respiratory specimens were 92.8, 99.4, 98.5, and 97%, respectively, for AMTDII and 75.7, 98.8, 96.4, and 90.5%, respectively, for LCx. With extrapulmonary specimens, the overall sensitivities, specificities, and positive and negative predictive values were 78.6, 99.3, 95.6, and 96.2%, respectively, for AMTDII and 53.6, 99.3, 93.7, and 92.1%, respectively, for LCx. The level of agreement between AMTDII and LCx assay results was 78.2%. We conclude that although both nucleic acid amplification methods are rapid and specific for the detection of MTB in clinical specimens, AMTDII is significantly more sensitive than LCx with both respiratory (P = 0.005) and extrapulmonary (P = 0.048) specimens.
PMCID: PMC105247  PMID: 9817880

Results 1-5 (5)