A sharp increase in the number of people living with HIV has been documented in the Philippines. In response, the government has instituted antiretroviral therapy (ART) nationwide through HIV treatment hubs. However, no data presently exist on the status of ART drug-resistance-associated mutations (DRMs). In this study, we aim at analyzing DRM profiles in the Philippines and at providing comprehensive data on DRMs to guide treatment decisions and prevent viral failures. We conducted a cross-sectional study in 119 volunteers who tested positive for HIV from more than 8,000 participants screened for HIV across the nation through the 2013 Integrated HIV Behavioral and Serologic Surveillance (IHBSS) program. Amplicons were generated from plasma RNA by using primers designed to analyze diverse HIV-1 isolates targeting the reverse transcriptase region and sequenced on a 454 ultra-deep sequencing (UDS) platform to assess DRMs. DRMs were defined by using the Stanford HIV drug resistance database, and we found only 2 from 110 evaluable individuals with major HIV variants (>20% prevalence) that were highly resistant to the non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor (NNRTI: efavirenz and nevirapine). However, a larger fraction of individuals harbored minority drug-resistant HIV variants (0.5%-20% prevalence) and they were highly resistant to NNRTI nevirapine (89/110), rilpivirine (5/110), and efavirenz (49/110). This study is the first report on the presence of HIV drug resistance in the Philippines and demonstrates the utility of UDS in assisting the detection of HIV minor variants. Monitoring for ART-DRMs will assist in improving HIV management strategies in curtailing the evolving epidemic in the Philippines.
Keywords: ARV drug resistance; HIV; Philippines; ultra-deep sequencing.