Genotypic and phenotypic characterization of acyclovir-resistant herpes simplex viruses isolated from haematopoietic stem cell transplant recipients

Růzena Stránská, Anton M van Loon, Merjo Polman, Matthias F C Beersma, Robbert G M Bredius, Arjan C Lankester, Ellen Meijer, Rob Schuurman
Antiviral Therapy 2004, 9 (4): 565-75
Thirty-one herpes simplex virus type one (HSV-1) isolates from 12 haematopoietic stem cell transplant recipients with persistent HSV infections despite acyclovir (ACV) prophylaxis or treatment, were genotypically and phenotypically characterized. The relationship between drug susceptibility of the isolates and mutations in thymidine kinase (TK) and DNA polymerase (DNA pol) genes was examined. In all 12 patients, HSV infections were due to ACV-resistant, foscarnet-sensitive viruses. Out of 31 isolates examined, 23 were resistant and eight were sensitive to ACV; eight patients carried viruses with frameshift mutations in the TK gene (due to addition or deletion of single nucleotides in homopolymeric repeats). These mutations were found at codon 61 (G deletion, one patient), 146 (G insertion, five patients) and 153 or 185 (C deletion, one patient each). In four patients, viruses were selected during ACV therapy that contained novel amino acid substitutions in the TK gene (H58R, G129D, A189V, R216H, R220C). Their possible role in ACV resistance was further confirmed phenotypically and by the absence of any resistance-associated mutations in the DNA pol gene. These substitutions were located in ATP- or nucleoside-binding sites or in conserved regions of the TK gene. In addition, a single mutation, Q570R, in the delta-region C of the DNA pol gene, was identified in an isolate from a single patient with resistance to ACV. Our study confirms and expands previous data on genotypic changes associated with ACV resistance of HSV-1 clinical isolates.

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