Medizinische Klinik 1, Klinikum der J. W. Goethe-Universität, Theodor-Stern-Kai 7, 60590 Frankfurt am Main, Germany.
The recent development of small molecule compounds that directly inhibit the viral life cycle represents a major milestone for the treatment of chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection. These new drugs that are collectively termed direct-acting antivirals (DAA) include a range of inhibitors of the non-structural (NS) 3/4A protease, NS5B polymerase and NS5A protein. Two NS3/4A protease inhibitors (boceprevir and telaprevir) in combination with pegylated interferon and ribavirin have now been approved for the treatment of chronic HCV genotype 1 infection and cure rates could be increased by 20-30%. However, the majority of DAAs is still in early clinical development. The rapid replication rate of HCV, along with the error-prone polymerase activity leads to a high genetic diversity among HCV virions that includes mutants with reduced susceptibility to DAA-therapy. These resistance-associated variants often occur at very low frequencies. However, during DAA-based treatment, rapid selection of resistance mutations may occur, eventually leading to viral break-through. A number of variants with different levels of resistance have been described in vitro and in vivo for virtually all DAAs. We review the parameters that determine DAA resistance as well as the clinical implications of resistance testing. In addition, the most recent literature and conference data on resistance profiles of DAAs in clinical development and future strategies to avoid the emergence of viral resistance are also discussed.