Background: The burden of Cryptococcus neoformans in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) predicts clinical outcomes in human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-associated cryptococcal meningitis (CM) and is lower in patients on antiretroviral therapy (ART). This study tested the hypothesis that initiation of ART during initial treatment of HIV/CM would improve CSF clearance of C. neoformans.
Methods: A randomized treatment-strategy trial was conducted in Botswana. HIV-infected, ART-naive adults aged≥21 years initiating amphotericin B treatment for CM were randomized to ART initiation within 7 (intervention) vs after 28 days (control) of randomization, and the primary outcome of the rate of CSF clearance of C. neoformans over the subsequent 4 weeks was compared. Adverse events, including CM immune reconstitution inflammatory syndrome (CM-IRIS), and immunologic and virologic responses were compared over 24 weeks.
Results: Among 27 subjects enrolled (13 intervention and 14 control), [corrected] the median times to ART initiation were 7 (interquartile range [IQR], 5–10) and 32days (IQR, 28–36), respectively. The estimated rate of CSF clearance did not differ significantly by treatment strategy (-0.32 log10 colony-forming units [CFU]/mL/day±0.20 intervention and -0.52 log10 CFUs/mL/day (±0.48) control, P=.4). Two of 13 (15%) and 5 of 14 (36%) subjects died in the intervention and control arms, respectively (P=0.39). Seven of 13 subjects (54%) in the intervention arm vs 0 of 14 in the control arm experienced CM-IRIS (P=.002).
Conclusions: Early ART was not associated with improved CSF fungal clearance, but resulted in a high risk of CM-IRIS. Further research on optimal incorporation of ART into CM care is needed.
Clinical trials registration: NCT00976040.