HIV mutation may make virus more susceptible to treatment
Like with DNA sequences, genes and chromosomes, viral genetic information has natural variations. They are very similar to the original, but contain minor differences that may or may not affect the host. One of these mutations, called the 172K polymorphism, may be the target scientists need to aim for when treating an affected individual.
"The 172K polymorphism makes certain forms of HIV less resistant to drugs," said Stefan Sarafianos, an author of the study. "172K doesn't affect the virus' normal activities. In some varieties of HIV that have developed resistance to drugs, when the 172K mutation is present, resistance to two classes of anti-HIV drugs is suppressed."
Sarafianos and colleagues from the University of Missouri's Bond Life Sciences Center estimate that as many as 3 percent of HIV strains contain the variation.
When HIV-positive individuals are treated, they may receive highly active antiretroviral therapy, in which patients take multiple types of antiretroviral drugs in an attempt to suppress the virus and prevent resistance to the medications. The 172K mutation is able to block the resistance to two of those drug classes - nucleoside (NRTIs) and non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NNRTIs) - which allows them to work more efficiently against the virus. Now that this information is available, once doctors identify those individuals who have this mutation, they can better customize treatment by prescribing NRTIs and NNRTIs.