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University of Missouri

AIDS Research

A newly discovered HIV mutation helps drug therapy.

Stefan Sarafianos

Stefan Sarafianos, Chancellor’s Chair for Excellence in Molecular Virology, is developing new compounds that target an enzyme in HIV that has escaped the reach of existing drugs. Photo by Rob Hill.

Medicines for the once-incurable HIV infection now allow patients to live long lives. However, as the virus mutates, the variations complicate treatment, for better or worse. On the downside, some strains have developed resistance to key drug classes called NRTIs and NNRTIs. However, Stefan Sarafianos, Chancellor’s Chair for Excellence in Molecular Virology, and colleagues have discovered a helpful mutation labeled 172K. The mutation, which suppresses resistance to NRTIs and NNRTIs so they can fight HIV better, is the only one known that blocks resistance to two drug types. The new finding will become part of a database of HIV mutations that physicians consult when prescribing treatments. When doctors learn that their patients have HIV strains carrying 172K, they will know that NRTIs and NNRTIs can fight the infections better than other drugs, Sarafianos says.