High levels of adherence do not prevent accumulation of HIV drug resistance mutations

David R. Bangsberg, Edwin D. Charlebois, Robert M. Grant, Mark Holodniy, Steven G. Deeks, Sharon Perry, Kathleen Nugent Conroy, Richard Clark, David Guzman, Andrew Zolopa, Andrew Moss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

202 Scopus citations


Objectives: To assess the relationship between development of antiretroviral drug resistance and adherence by measured treatment duration, virologic suppression, and the rate of accumulating new drug resistance mutations at different levels of adherence. Methods: Adherence was measured with unannounced pill counts performed at the participant's usual place of residence in a prospective cohort of HIV-positive urban poor individuals. Two genotypic resistance tests separated by 6 months (G1 and G2) were obtained in individuals on a stable regimen and with detectable viremia (> 50 copies/ml). The primary resistance outcome was the number of new HIV antiretroviral drug resistance mutations occurring over the 6 months between G1 and G2. Results: High levels of adherence were closely associated with greater time on treatment (P < 0.0001) and viral suppression (P < 0.0001) in 148 individuals. In a subset of 57 patients with a plasma viral load > 50 copies/ml on stable therapy, the accumulation of new drug resistance mutations was positively associated with the duration of prior treatment (P = 0.03) and pill count adherence (P = 0.0021. Assuming fully suppressed individuals (< 50 copies/ml) do not develop resistance, it was estimated that 23% of all drug resistance occurs in the top quintile of adherence (92-100%), and over 50% of all drug resistance mutations occur in the top two quintiles of adherence (79-100%). Conclusion: Increasing rates of viral suppression at high levels of adherence is balanced by increasing rates of drug resistance among viremic patients. Exceptionally high levels of adherence will not prevent population levels of drug resistance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1925-1932
Number of pages8
Issue number13
StatePublished - Sep 5 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Adherence
  • HIV
  • Health policy
  • Homeless
  • Injection drug user
  • Resistance
  • Viral evolution
  • Viral suppression

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology
  • Infectious Diseases


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