Non-structural 5A protein (NS5A) resistance-associated substitutions (RASs) have been identified in patients infected with hepatitis C virus (HCV), even prior to exposure to direct-acting antiviral agents (DAAs). Selection for these variants occurs rapidly during treatment and, in some cases, leads to antiviral treatment failure. DAAs are currently the standard of care for hepatitis C treatment in many parts of the world. Nevertheless, in Brazil, the prevalence of pre-existing NS5A RASs is largely unknown. In this study, we evaluated the frequency of naturally occurring NS5A RASs in Brazilian patients infected with HCV as either a monoinfection or coinfection with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
Direct Sanger sequencing of the NS5A region was performed in 257 DAA-naïve patients chronically infected with HCV (156 monoinfected with HCV and 101 coinfected with HIV/HCV).
The frequencies of specific RASs in monoinfected patients were 14.6% for HCV GT-1a (M28 V and Q30H/R), 6.0% for GT-1b (L31F/V and Y93H), and 22.6% for GT-3a (A30K and Y93H). For HIV/HCV-coinfected patients, the frequencies of RAS were 3.9% for GT-1a (M28 T and Q30H/R), and 11.1% for GT-1b (Y93H); no RASs were found in GT-3a sequences.
Substitutions that may confer resistance to NS5A inhibitors exist at baseline in Brazilian DAA-naïve patients infected with HCV GT-1a, −1b, and -3a. Standardization of RAS definitions is needed to improve resistance analyses and to facilitate comparisons of substitutions reported across studies worldwide. Therapeutic strategies should be optimized to efficiently prevent DAA treatment failure due to selection for RASs, especially in difficult-to-cure patients.