The nonnucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor (NNRTI) UC781 is under development as a microbicide to prevent sexual transmission of the human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1). However, NNRTI-resistant HIV-1 is increasingly prevalent in the infected population, and one of the concerns for NNRTI-based microbicides is that they will be ineffective against drug-resistant virus and may in fact selectively transmit NNRTI-resistant virus. We evaluated the microbicidal activity of UC781 against UC781-resistant (UCR), efavirenz-resistant (EFVR), and nevirapine-resistant (NVPR) strains in a variety of microbicide-relevant tests, including inactivation of cell-free virus, inhibition of cell-to-cell HIV-1 transmission, and the ability of UC781 pretreatment to protect cells from subsequent infection in the absence of exogenous drug. UC781 was 10- to 100-fold less effective against NNRTI-resistant HIV-1 compared to wild-type (wt) virus in each of these tests, with UC781 microbicidal activity against the various virus strains being wt > or = NVPR > UCR > or = EFVR. Breakthrough experiments using UC781-pretreated cells and mixtures of wt and NNRTI-resistant HIV-1 showed that UC781-pretreatment selected for NNRTI-resistant HIV-1. However, the efficacy of UC781 was dose dependent, and 25 microM UC781 provided essentially equivalent microbicidal activity against NNRTI-resistant and wt virus. The amount of UC781 in topical microbicide formulations under current development is approximately 100-fold greater than this concentration, so transmission of NNRTI-resistant virus may not be an issue at these microbicide formulation levels of UC781. Nonetheless, the reduced microbicidal activity of UC781 against NNRTI-resistant HIV-1 suggests that additional antiviral agents should be included in NNRTI-based microbicide formulations.