Background: Experience in adults has shown that combination therapy including HIV protease inhibitors (PI) can profoundly affect viral replication and slow progression of HIV-associated disease. Trials defining the influence of PI and combination therapies on long term outcome of HIV infection in children have not yet been completed. Experience with infants and children who were receiving routine care in an HIV specialty clinic was reviewed to characterize the effect of changes involving one, two or three antiretrovirals.
Methods: Clinical and laboratory findings of children in whom antiretroviral therapy was changed were retrospectively reviewed. Successful response was defined as a reduction of viral load of at least 0.7 log10 RNA copies/ml lasting for at least 3 months. Differences in characteristics and the character of the response associated with successful and unsuccessful changes were analyzed.
Results: Of the 72 changes in therapy that were made in 54 children, 29 resulted in a successful response. A change involving 3 antiretrovirals was more likely to produce a successful response than a change involving 1 agent (6 of 9 vs. 6 of 24; P < 0.04). Reduction of viral load by > 100-fold or to undetectable amounts occurred more frequently in children who responded to a regimen containing a PI than in children who responded to reverse transcriptase inhibitors (11 of 21 vs. 1 of 8; P=0.05). Furthermore successful responses associated with addition of a PI were associated with a greater reduction in viral load than those that involved reverse transcriptase inhibitors (1.63+/-0.60 vs. 0.99+/-0.12 log10; P=0.003).
Conclusions: This experience suggests that changing antiretroviral therapy in HIV-infected children to regimens containing three drugs is more likely to result in a successful virologic outcome than changes in therapy involving one drug. This experience further supports the conclusion that including a PI as part of an antiretroviral regimen is more likely to result in a greater reduction in viral load in children.