A decade of viral mutations and associated drug resistance in a population of HIV-1+ Puerto Ricans: 2002–2011

Puerto Rico has one of the highest rates of HIV/AIDS seen for any US state or territory, and antiretroviral therapy has been a mainstay of efforts to mitigate the HIV/AIDS public health burden on the island. We studied the evolutionary dynamics of HIV-1 mutation and antiretroviral drug resistance in Puerto Rico by monitoring the population frequency of resistance-associated mutations from 2002 to 2011. Whole blood samples from 4,475 patients were analyzed using the TRUGENE HIV-1 Genotyping Kit and OpenGene DNA Sequencing System in the Immunoretrovirus Research Laboratory at Universidad Central del Caribe. Results show that 64.0% of female and 62.9% of male patients had HIV-1 mutations that confer resistance to at least one antiretroviral medication. L63P and M184V were the dominant mutations observed for the protease (PRO) and reverse transcriptase (RT) encoding genes, respectively. Specific resistance mutations, along with their associated drug resistance profiles, can be seen to form temporal clusters that reveal a steadily changing landscape of resistance trends over time. Both women and men showed resistance mutations for an average of 4.8 drugs over the 10-year period, further underscoring the strong selective pressure exerted by antiretrovirals along with the rapid adaptive response of HIV. Nevertheless, both female and male patients showed a precipitous decrease for overall drug resistance, and for PRO mutations in particular, over the entire course of the study, with the most rapid decrease in frequency seen after 2006. The reduced HIV-1 mutation and drug resistance trends that we observed are consistent with previous reports from multi-year studies conducted around the world. Reduced resistance can be attributed to the use of more efficacious antiretroviral drug therapy, including the introduction of multi-drug combination therapies, which limited the ability of the virus to mount rapid adaptive responses to antiretroviral selection pressure.