A Pragmatic Approach to HIV-1 Drug Resistance Determination in Resource-Limited Settings using a Novel RT-only Genotyping Assay
In resource-limited settings (RLS), reverse transcriptase (RT) inhibitors form the backbone of first-line treatment regimens. We have developed a simplified HIV-1 drug resistance genotyping assay targeting the region of RT harboring all major RT inhibitor resistance mutation positions, thus providing all relevant susceptibility data for first-line failures, coupled with minimal cost and labor.
The assay comprises a one-step RT-PCR amplification reaction, followed by sequencing using one forward and one reverse primer, generating double-stranded coverage of RT amino acids (aa) 41 to 238. The assay was optimized for all major HIV-1 group M subtypes in plasma and dried blood spot (DBS) samples using a panel of reference viruses for HIV-1 subtypes A to D, F to H, and circulating recombinant form 01_AE (CRF01_AE) and applied to 212 clinical plasma samples and 25 DBS samples from HIV-1-infected individuals from Africa and Europe. The assay was subsequently transferred to Uganda and applied locally on clinical plasma samples. All major HIV-1 subtypes could be detected with an analytical sensitivity of 5.00E+3 RNA copies/ml for plasma and DBS. Application of the assay on 212 clinical samples from African subjects comprising subtypes A to D, F to H (rare), CRF01_AE, and CRF02_AG at a viral load (VL) range of 6.71E+2 to 1.00E+7 (median, 1.48E+5) RNA copies/ml was 94.8% (n = 201) successful.
Application on clinical samples in Uganda demonstrated a comparable success rate. Genotyping of clinical DBS samples, all subtype C with a VL range of 1.02E+3 to 4.49E+5 (median, 1.42E+4) RNA copies/ml, was 84.0% successful. The described assay greatly reduces hands-on time and the costs required for genotyping and is ideal for use in RLS, as demonstrated in a reference laboratory in Uganda and its successful application on DBS samples.
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