Background: The therapeutic effects of antiretroviral treatment (ART) in patients with multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection have not been established.
Objective: To assess therapeutic outcomes of integrating ART with treatment for MDR-TB.
Design: A subgroup of MDR-TB patients from a randomised controlled trial, the SAPiT (Starting Antiretroviral Therapy at Three Points in Tuberculosis) study, conducted in an out-patient clinic in Durban, South Africa, from 2008 to 2012.
Methods: Clinical outcomes at 18 months were compared in patients randomised to receive ART within 12 weeks of initiating standard first-line anti-tuberculosis treatment with those who commenced ART after completing anti-tuberculosis treatment.
Results: Mycobacterium tuberculosis drug susceptibility results were available in 489 (76%) of 642 SAPiT patients: 23 had MDR-TB, 14 in the integrated treatment arm and 9 in the sequential treatment arm. At 18 months, the mortality rate was 11.9/100 person-years (py; 95%CI 1.4-42.8) in the combined integrated treatment arm and 56.0/100 py (95%CI 18.2-130.8) in the sequential treatment arm (hazard ratio adjusted for baseline CD4 count and whether MDR-TB treatment was initiated: 0.14; 95%CI 0.02-0.94, P = 0.04).
Conclusion: Despite the small sample size, the 86% reduction in mortality due to early initiation of ART in MDR-TB patients was statistically significant.