A sensitive in-house RT-PCR genotyping system for combined detection of plasma HIV-1 and assessment of drug resistance.

Document Type



Obstetrics and Gynaecology (East Africa)


Quantification of the viral burden and identification of drug resistant mutations are important laboratory tools in the management of HIV-1 infected patients. However, widespread use of assays for viral load determination and genotyping is still hampered by the high cost. Here, an in-house RT-PCR-sequencing assay for HIV-1 drug resistance monitoring with the potential to be used both as a qualitative assay to detect the virus in plasma and as a genotyping system is described. A total of 377 clinical samples, collected from 374 HIV-infected patients of diverse geographic origin, were tested. The nested RT-PCR for amplification of the protease reverse transcriptase gene was found positive for 350 (92.8%) and 346 (91.8%) of 377 samples, respectively. All amplification-failures were due to viral loads of below 500 copies/ml. However, low viral load does not exclude amplification since 80.2 and 76% of 121 samples with viral loads of less than 500 copies/ml were amplified successfully for protease and reverse transcriptase, respectively. The high sensitivity of the assay was independent of the HIV-subtype, with a broad range of different HIV-1 subtypes tested. In conclusion the RT-PCR-direct sequencing method is convenient for the sensitive detection and subsequent genotyping of plasma RNA from a broad range of different HIV-1 subtypes. The assay enables the accurate follow-up of patients under treatment at a significantly reduced cost compared to the currently available commercial assays for viral load assessment and genotyping.


This work was published before the author joined Aga Khan University.

Publication (Name of Journal)

Journal of Virological Methods