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Haemophilia. 1998 Jul;4(4):610-5.

Resistance to HIV protease inhibitors.

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Department of Antiviral Research, Merck Research Laboratories, West Point, PA 19486, USA.


Resistance to the HIV-1 protease inhibitor indinavir involves the accumulation of multiple amino acid substitutions in the viral protease. A minimum of 11 amino acid positions have been identified as potential contributors to phenotypic resistance. Three or more amino acid substitutions in the protease are required before resistance becomes measurable (> or = four-fold). Further losses in susceptibility follow the stepwise accumulation of additional amino acid substitutions, indicating that antiviral activity (selective pressure) is maintained despite the appearance of multiple amino acid substitutions in the viral protease. Importantly, the sequential nature of these changes indicates that the effects of these substitutions are additive, and that the evolution of resistance is driven by viral replication. This result has significant implications for therapy. It predicts that viral variants resistant to indinavir are unlikely to pre-exist in protease inhibitor-naive patients, and further, that high-level resistance can only develop if the virus is allowed to replicate in the presence of the drug. The use of indinavir in combination with other antiretroviral agents has been demonstrated to dramatically reduce the incidence of resistance mutations, suggesting that with maximal suppression of viral replication, long-term control of HIV-1 infection may be achievable. Thus, the goal of therapy must be to never to allow the virus to replicate. This can be best accomplished by initiating therapy with a maximally suppressive regimen, to reduce viral replication as much as possible, and by imposing a high genetic barrier to resistance. Previous use of other protease inhibitors or inadequate adherence to therapy may compromise the long-term benefit of indinavir by allowing the virus to gain a foothold through the development of resistance. An understanding of these issues will be critical in realizing the full potential of this potent new drug for the control of HIV-1 infection.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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