Replication capacity, biological phenotype, and drug resistance of HIV strains isolated from patients failing antiretroviral therapy

Emanuele Nicastri, Loredana Sarmati, Gabriella D'Ettorre, Lucia Palmisano, Saverio G. Parisi, Ilaria Uccella, Alessia Rianda, Ercole Concia, Vincenzo Vullo, Stefano Vella, Massimo Andreoni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The fitness of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in vivo depends on the interaction of a multitude of viral and host factors. The aim of this study was to analyze the biological phenotype and the intrinsic capacity of the HIV isolates with drug-resistance mutations to replicate efficiently in the absence of drugs. An open label multicenter cross-sectional study was undertaken on 28 HIV-infected patients failing antiretroviral treatment. The subjects were studied for CD4+ cell count, HIV viral load, syncytium-inducing phenotype, genotypic drug-resistance assay, and replication capacity of HIV isolates assessed by co-culture assay. All HIV isolates showed a decreased replication capacity compared with wildtype strains. The lowest replication capacity was detected in HIV strains with more than five drug-resistance mutations. The highest replication capacity was observed in strains carrying the K103N and Y181C primary mutations that emerged after treatment with non-nucleoside analogue inhibitors. Isolates with R5 biological phenotype had a higher number of resistant mutations than X4 isolates (P=0.004). Particularly, the R5 phenotype was detected in all 6 isolates with more than 14 drug-resistance mutations. Patients with R5 strains had plasma viral load similar to patients with X4 strains, but marginally higher CD4+ cell counts, and their HIV isolates had significantly lower replication capacity of HIV isolates (P=0.008). No patient carrying HIV with a maintained replication capacity had a viral load less than 30,000 copies/ml. In patients failing HAART, the detection of HIV isolates with the R5 biological phenotype correlates with CD4+ cell count, an impaired replication capacity, and a high number of drug-resistance mutations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-6
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Medical Virology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2003


  • HIV drug resistance
  • HIV isolates
  • HIV replication capacity
  • R5/X4 biological phenotype

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Virology

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