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1.  Comparative Analysis of Drug Resistance Among B and the Most Prevalent Non-B HIV Type 1 Subtypes (C, F, and CRF02_AG) in Italy 
AIDS Research and Human Retroviruses  2012;28(10):1285-1293.
In recent years, increasing numbers of patients infected with HIV-1 non-B subtypes have been treated with modern antiretroviral regimens. Therefore, a better knowledge of HIV drug resistance in non-B strains is crucial. Thus, we compared the mutational pathways involved in drug resistance among the most common non-B subtypes in Italy (F, C, and CRF02_AG) and the B subtype. In total, 2234 pol sequences from 1231 virologically failing patients from Central Italy were analyzed. The prevalence of resistance mutations in protease and reverse transcriptase between non-B and B subtypes has been evaluated. Among patients treated with nucleoside/nucleotide reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTI) and with thymidine analogues (TA) experience, TAMs1 M41L and L210W were less prevalent in CRF02_AG, while TAMs2 T215F and K219E were more prevalent in the F subtype. In NRTI-treated patients having experience with abacavir, didanosine, tenofovir, or stavudine the K65R mutation was mostly prevalent in the C subtype. In non-NRTI (NNRTI)-treated patients infected by the C subtype the prevalence of K103N was lower than in patients infected with other subtypes, while the prevalence of Y181C and Y188L was higher compared to subtype B. The prevalence of Y181C was higher also in subtype F as compared to subtype B. In patients treated with protease inhibitors, L89V was predominantly found in CRF02_AG, while the TPV resistance mutation T74P was predominantly found in the C subtype. Some differences in the genotypic drug resistance have been found among patients infected with B, C, F, and CRF02_AG subtypes in relationship to treatment. These results may be useful for the therapeutic management of individuals infected with HIV-1 non-B strains.
PMCID: PMC3448092  PMID: 22417570
2.  Short Communication: Characterization of Drug-Resistance Mutations in HIV Type 1 Isolates from Drug-Naive and ARV-Treated Patients in Bulgaria 
AIDS Research and Human Retroviruses  2008;24(9):1133-1138.
Little information is available about the prevalence of resistance mutations to reverse transcriptase (RT) and protease (PR) inhibitors of HIV-1, after the introduction of antiretroviral treatment in Bulgaria. To fill this gap, we analyzed 80 plasma samples from HIV-1-infected Bulgarian patients, 22 naive at antiretroviral treatment (ARV) and 58 ARV experienced. The subtypes B and A resulted in the two most prevalent (41 patients and 18 patients, respectively). The proportion of subtype B among naive and treated patients was similar in each group (57% vs. 47%, p = 0.62), while a major proportion of subtypes A was present in drug-naive patients rather than in treated patients [8/22 (36.4%) vs. 10/58 (17.2%), p = 0.08]. Two (9.1%) naive patients and 40 (70.1%) drug-experienced patients had viruses carrying at least one mutation conferring resistance to ARV drugs. Of 57 patients having experience with nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTI), 32 (56.1%) had NRTI resistance mutations; 8/14 (57.2%) patients having experience with non-NRTI (NNRTI) had viruses carrying NNRTI resistance mutations; and 21/46 (45.7%) patients having experience with protease inhibitors (PI) had PI resistance mutations. The commonest resistance mutations resulted in the NRTI mutation M184V (42.1%) and the PI mutation L90M (24.1%). In conclusion, due to the detection of the substantial transmission of resistant variants to newly infected individuals, continuous surveillance is required, since greater access to highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) will be expected in Bulgaria. Furthermore, surveillance of PR and RT sequences is also convenient to monitor the introduction of nonsubtype B HIV-1 strains in Bulgaria.
PMCID: PMC2928031  PMID: 18788909
3.  A Very Low Geno2pheno False Positive Rate Is Associated with Poor Viro-Immunological Response in Drug-Naïve Patients Starting a First-Line HAART 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(8):e105853.
We previously found that a very low geno2pheno false positive rate (FPR ≤2%) defines a viral population associated with low CD4 cell count and the highest amount of X4-quasispecies. In this study, we aimed at evaluating whether FPR ≤2% might impact on the viro-immunological response in HIV-1 infected patients starting a first-line HAART.
The analysis was performed on 305 HIV-1 B subtype infected drug-naïve patients who started their first-line HAART. Baseline FPR (%) values were stratified according to the following ranges: ≤2; 2–5; 5–10; 10–20; 20–60; >60. The impact of genotypically-inferred tropism on the time to achieve immunological reconstitution (a CD4 cell count gain from HAART initiation ≥150 cells/mm3) and on the time to achieve virological success (the first HIV-RNA measurement <50 copies/mL from HAART initiation) was evaluated by survival analyses.
Overall, at therapy start, 27% of patients had FPR ≤10 (6%, FPR ≤2; 7%, FPR 2–5; 14%, FPR 5–10). By 12 months of therapy the rate of immunological reconstitution was overall 75.5%, and it was significantly lower for FPR ≤2 (54.1%) in comparison to other FPR ranks (78.8%, FPR 2–5; 77.5%, FPR 5–10; 71.7%, FPR 10–20; 81.8%, FPR 20–60; 75.1%, FPR >60; p = 0.008). The overall proportion of patients achieving virological success was 95.5% by 12 months of therapy. Multivariable Cox analyses showed that patients having pre-HAART FPR ≤2% had a significant lower relative adjusted hazard [95% C.I.] both to achieve immunological reconstitution (0.37 [0.20–0.71], p = 0.003) and to achieve virological success (0.50 [0.26–0.94], p = 0.031) than those with pre-HAART FPR >60%.
Beyond the genotypically-inferred tropism determination, FPR ≤2% predicts both a poor immunological reconstitution and a lower virological response in drug-naïve patients who started their first-line therapy. This parameter could be useful to identify patients potentially with less chance of achieving adequate immunological reconstitution and virological undetectability.
PMCID: PMC4143365  PMID: 25153969
4.  HIV-1 Genetic Variability and Clinical Implications 
ISRN Microbiology  2013;2013:481314.
Despite advances in antiretroviral therapy that have revolutionized HIV disease management, effective control of the HIV infection pandemic remains elusive. Beyond the classic non-B endemic areas, HIV-1 non-B subtype infections are sharply increasing in previous subtype B homogeneous areas such as Europe and North America. As already known, several studies have shown that, among non-B subtypes, subtypes C and D were found to be more aggressive in terms of disease progression. Luckily, the response to antiretrovirals against HIV-1 seems to be similar among different subtypes, but these results are mainly based on small or poorly designed studies. On the other hand, differences in rates of acquisition of resistance among non-B subtypes are already being observed. This different propensity, beyond the type of treatment regimens used, as well as access to viral load testing in non-B endemic areas seems to be due to HIV-1 clade specific peculiarities. Indeed, some non-B subtypes are proved to be more prone to develop resistance compared to B subtype. This phenomenon can be related to the presence of subtype-specific polymorphisms, different codon usage, and/or subtype-specific RNA templates. This review aims to provide a complete picture of HIV-1 genetic diversity and its implications for HIV-1 disease spread, effectiveness of therapies, and drug resistance development.
PMCID: PMC3703378  PMID: 23844315
5.  The Genotypic False Positive Rate Determined by V3 Population Sequencing Can Predict the Burden of HIV-1 CXCR4-using Species Detected by Pyrosequencing 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(1):e53603.
The false-positive rate (FPR) is a percentage-score provided by Geno2Pheno-algorithm indicating the likelihood that a V3-sequence is falsely predicted as CXCR4-using. We evaluated the correlation between FPR obtained by V3 population-sequencing and the burden of CXCR4-using variants detected by V3 ultra-deep sequencing (UDPS) and Enhanced-Sensitivity Trofile assay (ESTA).
54 HIV-1 B-subtype infected-patients (all maraviroc-naïve), with viremia >10,000copies/ml, were analyzed. HIV-tropism was assessed by V3 population-sequencing, UDPS (considering variants with >0.5% prevalence), and ESTA.
By UDPS, CCR5-using variants were detected in 53/54 patients, irrespective of FPR values, and their intra-patient prevalence progressively increased by increasing the FPR obtained by V3 population-sequencing (rho = 0.75, p = 5.0e-8). Conversely, the intra-patient prevalence of CXCR4-using variants in the 54 patients analyzed progressively decreased by increasing the FPR (rho = −0.61; p = 9.3e-6). Indeed, no CXCR4-using variants were detected in 13/13 patients with FPR>60. They were present in 7/18 (38.8%) patients with FPR 20–60 (intra-patient prevalence range: 2.1%–18.4%), in 5/7 (71.4%) with FPR 10–20, in 4/6 (66.7%) with FPR 5–10, and in 10/10(100%) with FPR<5 (intra-patient prevalence range: 12.1%–98.1%).
FPR by V3 population-sequencing can predict the burden of CXCR4-using variants. This information can be used to optimize the management of tropism determination in clinical practice. Due to its low cost and short turnaround time, V3 population-sequencing may represent the most feasible test for HIV-1 tropism determination. More sensitive methodologies (as UDPS) might be useful when V3 population-sequencing provides a FPR >20 (particularly in the range 20–60), allowing a more careful identification of patients harboring CXCR4-using variants.
PMCID: PMC3544916  PMID: 23341955
6.  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
7.  The HIV Type 1 Epidemic in Bulgaria Involves Multiple Subtypes and Is Sustained by Continuous Viral Inflow from West and East European Countries 
Little is known about the HIV-1 epidemic in Balkan countries. To fill the gap, we investigated the viral genetic diversity in Bulgaria, by sequencing and phylogenetic characterization of 86 plasma samples collected between 2002 and 2006 from seropositive individuals diagnosed within 1986–2006. Analysis of pol gene sequences assigned 51% of the samples to HIV-1 subtype B and 27% to subtype A1. HIV-1 subtype C, F, G, H, and a few putative recombinant forms were also found. Phylogenetic and molecular clock analysis showed a continuous exchange of subtype A and B between Bulgaria and Western as well as other Eastern European countries. At least three separate introductions of HIV-1 subtype A and four of HIV-1 subtype B have occurred within the past 25 years in Bulgaria. The central geographic location of Bulgaria, the substantial genetic heterogeneity of the epidemic with multiple subtypes, and the significant viral flow observed to and from the Balkan countries have the potential to modify the current HIV-1 epidemiological structure in Europe and highlight the importance of more extensive and continuous monitoring of the epidemic in the Balkans.
PMCID: PMC2927039  PMID: 18544022
8.  Characterization and Structural Analysis of Novel Mutations in Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 Reverse Transcriptase Involved in the Regulation of Resistance to Nonnucleoside Inhibitors▿  
Journal of Virology  2007;81(20):11507-11519.
Resistance to antivirals is a complex and dynamic phenomenon that involves more mutations than are currently known. Here, we characterize 10 additional mutations (L74V, K101Q, I135M/T, V179I, H221Y, K223E/Q, and L228H/R) in human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) reverse transcriptase which are involved in the regulation of resistance to nonnucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NNRTIs). These mutations are strongly associated with NNRTI failure and strongly correlate with the classical NNRTI resistance mutations in a data set of 1,904 HIV-1 B-subtype pol sequences from 758 drug-naïve patients, 592 nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor (NRTI)-treated but NNRTI-naïve patients, and 554 patients treated with both NRTIs and NNRTIs. In particular, L74V and H221Y, positively correlated with Y181C, were associated with an increase in Y181C-mediated resistance to nevirapine, while I135M/T mutations, positively correlated with K103N, were associated with an increase in K103N-mediated resistance to efavirenz. In addition, the presence of the I135T polymorphism in NNRTI-naïve patients significantly correlated with the appearance of K103N in cases of NNRTI failure, suggesting that I135T may represent a crucial determinant of NNRTI resistance evolution. Molecular dynamics simulations show that I135T can contribute to the stabilization of the K103N-induced closure of the NNRTI binding pocket by reducing the distance and increasing the number of hydrogen bonds between 103N and 188Y. H221Y also showed negative correlations with type 2 thymidine analogue mutations (TAM2s); its copresence with the TAM2s was associated with a higher level of zidovudine susceptibility. Our study reinforces the complexity of NNRTI resistance and the significant interplay between NRTI- and NNRTI-selected mutations. Mutations beyond those currently known to confer resistance should be considered for a better prediction of clinical response to reverse transcriptase inhibitors and for the development of more efficient new-generation NNRTIs.
PMCID: PMC2045529  PMID: 17686836
9.  Involvement of Novel Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 Reverse Transcriptase Mutations in the Regulation of Resistance to Nucleoside Inhibitors 
Journal of Virology  2006;80(14):7186-7198.
We characterized 16 additional mutations in human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) reverse transcriptase (RT) whose role in drug resistance is still unknown by analyzing 1,906 plasma-derived HIV-1 subtype B pol sequences from 551 drug-naïve patients and 1,355 nucleoside RT inhibitor (NRTI)-treated patients. Twelve mutations positively associated with NRTI treatment strongly correlated both in pairs and in clusters with known NRTI resistance mutations on divergent evolutionary pathways. In particular, T39A, K43E/Q, K122E, E203K, and H208Y clustered with the nucleoside analogue mutation 1 cluster (NAM1; M41L+L210W+T215Y). Their copresence in this cluster was associated with an increase in thymidine analogue resistance. Moreover, treatment failure in the presence of K43E, K122E, or H208Y was significantly associated with higher viremia and lower CD4 cell count. Differently, D218E clustered with the NAM2 pathway (D67N+K70R+K219Q+T215F), and its presence in this cluster determined an increase in zidovudine resistance. In contrast, three mutations (V35I, I50V, and R83K) negatively associated with NRTI treatment showed negative correlations with NRTI resistance mutations and were associated with increased susceptibility to specific NRTIs. In particular, I50V negatively correlated with the lamivudine-selected mutation M184V and was associated with a decrease in M184V/lamivudine resistance, whereas R83K negatively correlated with both NAM1 and NAM2 clusters and was associated with a decrease in thymidine analogue resistance. Finally, the association pattern of the F214L polymorphism revealed its propensity for the NAM2 pathway and its strong negative association with the NAM1 pathway. Our study provides evidence of novel RT mutational patterns that regulate positively and/or negatively NRTI resistance and strongly suggests that other mutations beyond those currently known to confer resistance should be considered for improved prediction of clinical response to antiretroviral drugs.
PMCID: PMC1489024  PMID: 16809324

Results 1-9 (9)