Transmission of HIV-1 drug resistance mutations within partner-pairs: A cross-sectional study of a primary HIV infection cohort.


Drug-resistant majority variants appeared to be commonly transmitted by ARV-naïve participants in our analysis and may contribute significantly to transmitted drug resistance on a population level. When present at low frequency, no major mutation was observed to be shared between partner-pairs; identification of accessory mutations shared within a pair could be due to transmission, laboratory artifact, or apolipoprotein B mRNA-editing enzyme, catalytic polypeptides (APOBECs), and warrants further study.

From 1992-2010, 340 persons with primary HIV-1 infection and their partners were enrolled into observational research studies at the University of Washington Primary Infection Clinic (UWPIC). Out of 50 partner-pairs enrolled, 36 (72%) transmission relationships were confirmed by phylogenetic distance analysis of HIV-1 envelope (env) sequences, and 31 partner-pairs enrolled after 1995 met criteria for this study. Drug resistance mutations in the region of the HIV-1 polymerase gene (pol) that encodes protease and reverse transcriptase were assessed by 454-pyrosequencing. In 25 partner-pairs where the transmission direction could be determined, 12 (48%) transmitters had 1-4 drug resistance mutations (23 total) detected in their HIV-1 populations at a median frequency of 6.0% (IQR 1.5%-98.7%, range 1.0%-99.6%). Of 10 major mutations detected in five transmitters at a frequency >95%, 100% (95% CI 69.2%-100%) were detected in recipients. All of these transmitters were antiretroviral (ARV)-naïve at the time of specimen collection. Fourteen mutations (eight major mutations and six accessory mutations) were detected in nine transmitters at low frequencies (1.0%-11.8%); four of these transmitters had previously received ARV therapy. Two (14% [95% CI 1.8%-42.8%]) G73S accessory mutations were detected in both transmitter and recipient. This number is not significantly different from the number expected based on the observed frequencies of drug-resistant viruses in transmitting partners. Limitations of this study include the small sample size and uncertainties in determining the timing of virus transmission and mutation history.

Transmission of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) drug resistance mutations, particularly that of minority drug-resistant variants, remains poorly understood. Population-based studies suggest that drug-resistant HIV-1 is less transmissible than drug-susceptible viruses. We compared HIV-1 drug-resistant genotypes among partner-pairs in order to assess the likelihood of transmission of drug resistance mutations and investigate the role of minority variants in HIV transmission.

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