An Implant in the Skin Could Prevent HIV
An implant that is placed under the skin and contains an HIV drug could be used as a treatment to prevent HIV infection. This strategy is known medically as Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (or PrEP), and it currently exists, but the treatment can only be found in oral tablets that must be taken daily.
The drug in the implant called islatavir belongs to a new class of anti-HIV drugs. It has a double acting mechanism, which could make it more powerful since it provides high efficiency and slow elimination from the body, characteristics that would allow it to be part of long-acting treatment schemes.
According to information from the HIV Treatment Working Group (gTt-HIV), subcutaneous implantation with islatavir could maintain the supply of a sufficient concentration of the drug for use as PrEP. The study was conducted on 24 volunteers who received implants containing the drug, and 12 volunteers who received implants with a placebo, over a period of 3 months.
The research showed that the drug concentrations needed to prevent HIV infection were stable for one to two months. In addition, the authors noted that islatavir does not have the same problem as another drug that is also being investigated (cabotegravir), which is injectable, but would prevent mutations from occurring that would make HIV more resistant.
During the observation period, 50% of the volunteers who had a placebo implant and 66% of those who had the islatavir implant had side effects such as redness, itching, or pain and hardening of the tissue at the implant site. Overall, these were mostly mild side effects, although three cases reached a moderate level.
Projecting the results of these three months to what would happen in a year, the study predicts that the average level of the drug in the person’s body would remain 3 to 4 times higher than the level necessary for HIV prevention. For this reason, the research group will continue with the study to determine if the drug levels in the real world match those expected.