To determine the prevalence of inferred low-frequency HIV-1 transmitted drug resistance (TDR) in MSM in the UK and its predicted effect on first-line therapy.
The HIV-1 pol gene was amplified from 442 newly diagnosed MSM identified as likely recently infected by serological avidity testing in 2011-13. The PCR products were sequenced by next-generation sequencing with a mutation frequency threshold of >2% and TDR mutations defined according to the 2009 WHO surveillance drug resistance mutations list.
The majority (75.6%) were infected with subtype B and 6.6% with rare complex or unique recombinant forms. At a mutation frequency threshold of >20%, 7.2% (95% CI 5.0%-10.1%) of the sequences had TDR and this doubled to 15.8% (95% CI 12.6%-19.6%) at >2% mutation frequency (P < 0.0001). The majority (26/42, 62%) of low-frequency variants were against PIs. The most common mutations detected at >20% and 2%-20% mutation frequency differed for each drug class, these respectively being: L90M (n = 7) and M46IL (n = 10) for PIs; T215rev (n = 9) and D67GN (n = 4) for NRTIs; and K103N (n = 5) and G190E (n = 2) for NNRTIs. Combined TDR was more frequent in subtype B than non-B (OR = 0.38; 95% CI = 0.17-0.88; P = 0.024) and had minimal predicted effect on recommended first-line therapies.
The data suggest differences in the types of low-frequency compared with majority TDR variants that require a better understanding of the origins and clinical significance of low-frequency variants. This will better inform diagnostic and treatment strategies.