Background: Transcriptionally silent human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) DNA persists in resting memory CD4(+) T cells despite antiretroviral therapy. In a primary cell model, the antialcoholism drug disulfiram has been shown to induce HIV-1 transcription in latently infected resting memory CD4(+) T cells at concentrations achieved in vivo.
Methods: We conducted a single-arm pilot study to evaluate whether 500 mg of disulfiram administered daily for 14 days to HIV-1-infected individuals on stable suppressive antiretroviral therapy would result in reversal of HIV-1 latency with a concomitant transient increase in residual viremia or depletion of the latent reservoir in resting memory CD4(+) T cells.
Results: Disulfiram was safe and well tolerated. There was a high level of subject-to-subject variability in plasma disulfiram levels. The latent reservoir did not change significantly (1.16-fold change; 95% confidence interval [CI], .70- to 1.92-fold; P = .56). During disulfiram administration, residual viremia did not change significantly compared to baseline (1.53-fold; 95% CI, .88- to 2.69-fold; P = .13), although residual viremia was estimated to increase by 1.88-fold compared to baseline during the postdosing period (95% CI, 1.03- to 3.43-fold; P = .04). In a post hoc analysis, a rapid and transient increase in viremia was noted in a subset of individuals (n = 6) with immediate postdose sampling (HIV-1 RNA increase, 2.96-fold; 95% CI, 1.29- to 6.81-fold; P = .01).
Conclusions: Administration of disulfiram to patients on antiretroviral therapy does not reduce the size of the latent reservoir. A possible dose-related effect on residual viremia supports future studies assessing the impact of higher doses on HIV-1 production. Disulfiram affects relevant signaling pathways and can be safely administered, supporting future studies of this drug.
Keywords: HIV-1 latent reservoir; disulfiram; latency-reversing agents.