Pretreatment resistance mutations and treatment outcomes in adults living with HIV-1: a cohort study in urban Malawi

AIDS Res Ther. 2020 May 20;17(1):22. doi: 10.1186/s12981-020-00282-3.


Background: Pre-treatment drug resistance (PDR) among antiretroviral drug-naïve people living with HIV (PLHIV) represents an important indicator for the risk of treatment failure and the spread of drug resistant HIV variants. We assessed the prevalence of PDR and treatment outcomes among adults living with HIV-1 in Lilongwe, Malawi.

Methods: We selected 200 participants at random from the Lighthouse Tenofovir Cohort Study (LighTen). Serum samples were drawn prior to treatment initiation in 2014 and 2015, frozen, and later analyzed for the presence of HIV-1 drug resistance mutations. Amplicons were sequenced and interpreted by Stanford HIVdb interpretation algorithm 8.4. We assessed treatment outcomes by evaluating clinical outcome and viral suppression at the end of the follow-up period in October 2019.

Results: PDR testing was successful in 197 of 200 samples. The overall NNRTI- PDR prevalence was 13.7% (27/197). The prevalence of intermediate or high level NNRTI- PDR was 11.2% (22/197). The most common mutation was K103N (5.6%, 11/197), followed by Y181C (3.6%, 7/197). In one case, we detected an NRTI resistance mutation (M184V), in combination with multiple NNRTI resistance mutations. All HIV-1 isolates analyzed were of subtype C. Of the 27 patients with NNRTI- PDR, 9 were still alive, on ART, and virally suppressed at the end of follow-up.

Conclusion: The prevalence of NNRTI- PDR was above the critical level of 10% suggested by the Global Action Plan on HIV Drug Resistance. The distribution of drug resistance mutations was similar to that seen in previous studies from the region, and further supports the introduction of integrase inhibitors in first-line treatment in Malawi. Furthermore, our findings underline the need for continued PDR surveillance and pharmacovigilance in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Keywords: Drug resistance mutations; HIV; Malawi; Non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase; Pretreatment resistance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anti-HIV Agents / therapeutic use
  • Cohort Studies
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Drug Resistance, Viral / genetics*
  • Female
  • Genotype
  • HIV Infections / drug therapy
  • HIV Infections / epidemiology
  • HIV-1 / drug effects*
  • HIV-1 / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Malawi / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mutation
  • Prevalence
  • Treatment Failure
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Urban Population / statistics & numerical data*
  • Viral Load / drug effects


  • Anti-HIV Agents