Background: In HIV-infected children, viral diversity tends to increase with age in the absence of antiretroviral treatment (ART). We measured HIV diversity in African children (ages 6-36 months) enrolled in a randomized clinical trial comparing two ART regimens (Cohort I of the P1060 trial). Children in this cohort were exposed to single dose nevirapine (sdNVP) at birth.
Methods: HIV diversity was measured retrospectively using a high resolution melting (HRM) diversity assay. Samples were obtained from 139 children at the enrollment visit prior to ART initiation. Six regions of the HIV genome were analyzed: two in gag, one in pol, and three in env. A single numeric HRM score that reflects HIV diversity was generated for each region; composite HRM scores were also calculated (mean and median for all six regions).
Results: In multivariable median regression models using backwards selection that started with demographic and clinical variables, older age was associated with higher HRM scores (higher HIV diversity) in pol (P = 0.005) and with higher mean (P = 0.014) and median (P<0.001) HRM scores. In multivariable models adjusted for age, pre-treatment HIV viral load, pre-treatment CD4%, and randomized treatment regimen, higher HRM scores in pol were associated with shorter time to virologic suppression (P = 0.016) and longer time to study endpoints (virologic failure [VF], VF/death, and VF/off study treatment; P<0.001 for all measures).
Conclusions: In this cohort of sdNVP-exposed, ART-naïve African children, higher levels of HIV diversity in the HIV pol region prior to ART initiation were associated with better treatment outcomes.