Serial human immunodeficiency virus type-1 (HIV-1) isolates were obtained from five individuals with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) who changed therapy to 2',3'-dideoxyinosine (ddI) after at least 12 months of treatment with 3'-azido-3'-deoxythymidine (zidovudine, AZT). The in vitro sensitivity to ddI decreased during the 12 months following ddI initiation, whereas AZT sensitivity increased. Analysis of the reverse transcriptase coding region revealed a mutation associated with reduced sensitivity to ddI. When this mutation was present in the same genome as a mutation known to confer AZT resistance, the isolates showed increased sensitivity to AZT. Analysis of HIV-1 variants confirmed that the ddI resistance mutation alone conferred ddI and 2',3'-dideoxycytidine resistance, and suppressed the effect of the AZT resistance mutation. The use of combination therapy for HIV-1 disease may prevent drug-resistant isolates from emerging.