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Clin Microbiol Rev. 2007 Oct;20(4):550-78.

Clinical significance of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 replication fitness.

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  • 1Infectious Diseases Division, Department of Medicine, University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, Rochester, NY 14642, USA.


The relative fitness of a variant, according to population genetics theory, is that variant's relative contribution to successive generations. Most drug-resistant human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) variants have reduced replication fitness, but at least some of these deficits can be compensated for by the accumulation of second-site mutations. HIV-1 replication fitness also appears to influence the likelihood of a drug-resistant mutant emerging during treatment failure and is postulated to influence clinical outcomes. A variety of assays are available to measure HIV-1 replication fitness in cell culture; however, there is no agreement regarding which assays best correlate with clinical outcomes. A major limitation is that there is no high-throughput assay that incorporates an internal reference strain as a control and utilizes intact virus isolates. Some retrospective studies have demonstrated statistically significant correlations between HIV-1 replication fitness and clinical outcomes in some patient populations. However, different studies disagree as to which clinical outcomes are most closely associated with fitness. This may be in part due to assay design, sample size limitations, and differences in patient populations. In addition, the strength of the correlations between fitness and clinical outcomes is modest, suggesting that, at present, it would be difficult to utilize these assays for clinical management.

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