Background: We evaluated reliability and clinical usefulness of genotypic resistance testing (GRT) in patients for whom combination antiretroviral therapy (cART) was unsuccessful with viremia levels 50-1000 copies/mL, for whom GRT is generally not recommended by current guidelines.
Methods: The genotyping success rate was evaluated in 12 828 human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) plasma samples with viremia >50 copies/mL, tested using the commercial ViroSeq HIV-1 Genotyping System or a homemade system. Phylogenetic analysis was performed to test the reliability and reproducibility of the GRT at low-level viremia (LLV). Drug resistance was evaluated in 3895 samples from 2200 patients for whom treatment was unsuccessful (viremia >50 copies/mL) by considering the resistance mutations paneled in the 2013 International Antiviral Society list.
Results: Overall, the success rate of amplification/sequencing was 96.4%. Viremia levels of 50-200 and 201-500 copies/mL afforded success rates of 67.2% and 88.1%, respectively, reaching 93.2% at 501-1000 copies/mL and ≥97.3% above 1000 copies/mL. A high homology among sequences belonging to the same subject for 96.4% of patients analyzed was found. The overall resistance prevalence was 74%. Drug resistance was commonly found also at LLV. In particular, by stratifying for different viremia ranges, detection of resistance was as follows: 50-200 copies/mL = 52.8%; 201-500 = 70%; 501-1000 = 74%; 1001-10 000 = 86.1%; 10 001-100 000 = 76.7%; and >100 000 = 63% (P < .001). Similar bell-shaped results were found when the GRT analysis was restricted to 2008-2012, although at a slightly lower prevalence.
Conclusions: In patients failing cART with LLV, HIV-1 genotyping provides reliable and reproducible results that are informative about emerging drug resistance.
Keywords: HIV-1 genotyping; HIV-1 low viremia; clinical outcome; drug resistance; phylogenesis.