Background: Tenofovir is a potent anti-human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) agent that decreased risk of herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) acquisition in HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis trials. Whether tenofovir has utility in established HSV-2 disease is unclear.
Methods: We randomized immunocompetent women with symptomatic HSV-2 infection to oral tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (TDF)/placebo vaginal gel, oral placebo/tenofovir (TFV) vaginal gel, or double placebo (ratio 2:2:1) in a one-way cross-over trial. Women collected genital swabs twice daily for HSV PCR during 4-week lead-in and 5-week treatment phases. The primary intent-to-treat end point was within-person comparison of genital HSV shedding and lesion rates.
Results: 64 women completed the lead-in phase and were randomized. Neither TDF nor TFV gel decreased overall shedding or lesion rate in the primary analysis; TFV gel decreased quantity of HSV DNA by -0.50 (-0.86-0.13) log10 copies/mL. In the per-protocol analysis, TDF reduced shedding (relative risk [RR] = 0.74, P = .006) and lesion rates (RR = 0.75, P = .032); quantity of virus shed decreased by 0.41 log10 copies/mL.
Conclusions: Oral TDF modestly decreased HSV shedding and lesion rate, and quantity of virus shed when used consistently. Vaginal TFV gel decreased quantity of virus shed by 60%. In contrast to effects on HSV-2 acquisition, tenofovir is unlikely to provide clinically meaningful reductions in the frequency of HSV shedding or genital lesions.
Clinical trials registration: NCT01448616.
Keywords: HIV acquisition; HSV-2 transmission; genital herpes; herpes simplex virus-2 (HSV-2); tenofovir; vaginal microbicide.
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