Antiretroviral drug resistance in HIV-1-infected patients experiencing persistent low-level viremia during first-line therapy.
Determinants of persistent low-level viraemia [PLLV, a viral load (VL) of between 50 and 500 copies/mL] have not been elucidated. In a case–control study, we evaluated the influence of micronutrients on PLLV in a population of 454 HIV-1 adults having initiated antiretroviral therapy (ART) between January 2007 and December 2011. Plasma levels of retinol (vitamin A), 25-OH vitamin D2 + D3, vitamin E and zinc were measured at ART initiation in cases (PLLV after 6 months of ART) and in controls (VL <50 copies/mL after 6 months). Cases and controls were matched for the CD4 cell count (±50/mm3) and ethnic origin. Intergroup differences in demographic, biological and treatment parameters and sunshine intensity at ART initiation were adjusted using a propensity score. A receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve was used to assess intergroup differences in plasma micronutrient levels. Thirty-three of the 454 patients (7.3%) displayed PLLV (median VL: 92 copies/mL). Patients were predominantly male (89%), Caucasian (64%) and CDC stage C (25%). The median age was 38 years, the median initial VL was 5.2 log10 copies/mL and the median CD4 count was 74/mm3. The 22 cases and matched controls were balanced in these respects, and had similar vitamin A/E levels. Two cases (9%) and 9 controls (41%) had a vitamin D level <10.3 ng/mL (p = 0.0015), and 2 cases (9%) and 10 controls (48%) had a zinc level <74.6 μg/dL (p = 0.04). Our results support in vitro studies suggesting that vitamin D favours HIV-1 replication and that HIV-1 is zinc-dependent. Wide-scale, prospective studies are required.