HIV resistance to anti-viral drugs

Braz J Med Biol Res. 1993 Mar;26(3):299-308.


The use of zidovudine (ZDV) and other forms of nucleoside therapy, including dideoxyinosine (ddI), to treat HIV-infected individuals has led to both longer survival and improved quality of life. However, ZDV-resistant variants of HIV-1 can be isolated from patients undergoing prolonged therapy with this drug. HIV drug resistance against ZDV, ddI and other nucleosides is attributable to a series of point mutations within the pol gene of HIV-1 that encodes the viral enzyme, reverse transcriptase (RT). This is not surprising, since the virus is known to replicate at high rates in infected individuals; moreover the RT which mediates transcription of proviral DNA from viral genomic RNA is known to be highly error-prone. Thus, mutants of HIV-1, which possess a drug resistance phenotype and genotype, may be expected to emerge under the selective pressure of long-term anti-viral chemotherapy. HIV drug resistance occurs most commonly in individuals with low CD4 counts, who have progressed to more serious forms of disease. Moreover, viruses obtained from patients with AIDS generally display higher levels of resistance, relative to pre-treatment isolates, than do viruses from patients with more limited illness. Although observations of drug resistance can be correlated with disease progression and a weakened immune system, it is still unclear whether a cause and effect relationship exists. Current clinical research is designed to answer this question while testing the notion that combinations of nucleosides and immuno-stimulatory drugs may provide important clinical benefits.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cross Reactions
  • Drug Resistance, Microbial / genetics
  • HIV Reverse Transcriptase
  • HIV-1 / drug effects*
  • HIV-1 / immunology
  • Humans
  • Leukocyte Count
  • RNA-Directed DNA Polymerase / metabolism
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Virus Replication / drug effects
  • Zidovudine / pharmacology*


  • Zidovudine
  • HIV Reverse Transcriptase
  • RNA-Directed DNA Polymerase