To study variability in reverse transcriptase (RT) and protease (PR) genes of HIV-1 isolated from recently infected patients identified between 1997 and 2003, sequences were obtained on the RT and PR genes of viruses harvested from plasma of 121 non-treated subjects who had undergone primary HIV infection. The degree of dissimilarity between the viruses studied and a reference HIV-1 subtype B strain (LAV-1) was calculated for each of RT and PR by counting all of the nucleotide substitutions that could be identified. Mutations associated with drug resistance were excluded from analysis. We observed a mean percentage of variation in the RT and PR genes of the viruses analysed of 0.42% between the years 1997--2003 (P<0.01). In PR, the mean variation was 0.71% (P<0.05), while that in RT was 0.3% (P<0.05). Increased diversity was also observed among nucleotides conferring amino-acid changes, although no significant differences in patterns of nucleotide substitutions were apparent over the period of analysis. In conclusion, variability in the RT and PR genes of viruses from recently infected patients has increased over time in a manner that is independent of variability attributable to HIV drug resistance.