Background Intravaginal rings (IVRs) can deliver antiretroviral (ARV) agents for HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), theoretically overcoming adherence concerns associated with frequent dosing. However, topical vaginal ARV drug delivery has not simultaneously led to sufficient rectal drug exposure to likely protect from HIV infection as a result of receptive anal intercourse (RAI). Unprotected RAI has a higher risk of infection per sex act and, for women, also can be associated with vaginal exposure during a single sexual encounter, especially in higher-risk subsets of women. The physiologically inflamed, activated, immune-cell dense colorectal mucosa is increasingly appreciated as the sexual compartment with highly significant risk; this risk is increased in the setting of co-infections. Ex vivo studies have shown that colorectal tissue and rectal fluid concentrations correlated with HIV protection. Given these important results, efforts to document colorectal compartment ARV drug concentration from pod-IVR delivery was assessed to determine if vaginal application could provide protective ARV levels in both compartments. Methodology/Principal findings A crossover clinical trial (N = 6) evaluated 7 d of continuous TDF pod-IVR use, a wash-out phase, followed by 7 d with a TDF-FTC pod-IVR. A subsequent clinical trial (N = 6) consisted of 7 d of continuous TDF-FTC-MVC pod-IVR use. Rectal fluids were collected on Day 7 at IVR removal in all three ARV-exposures (two Phase 1 trials) and drug concentrations quantified by LC-MS/MS. Median rectal fluid concentrations of TFV, the hydrolysis product of the prodrug TDF, were between 0.66 ng mg-1 (TDF pod-IVR group) and 1.11 ng mg-1 (TDF-FTC pod-IVR group), but below the analytical lower limit of quantitation in 5/6 samples in the TDF-FTC-MVC pod-IVR group. Unexpectedly, median FTC (TDF-FTC pod-IVR, 20.3 ng mg-1; TDF-FTC-MVC pod-IVR, 0.18 ng mg-1), and MVC rectal fluid concentrations (0.84 ng mg-1) were quantifiable and higher than their respective in vitro EC50 values in most samples. Due to participant burden in these exploratory trials, rectal fluid was used as a surrogate for rectal tissue, where drug concentrations are expected to be higher. Conclusions/Significance The concentrations of FTC and MVC in rectal fluids obtained in two exploratory clinical trials of IVRs delivering ARV combinations exceeded levels associated with in vitro efficacy in HIV inhibition. Unexpectedly, MVC appeared to depress the distribution of TFV and FTC into the rectal lumen. Here we show that vaginal delivery of ARV combinations may provide adherence and coitally independent dual-compartment protection from HIV infection during both vaginal and receptive anal intercourse.
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