Mucoadhesive Microspheres of Maraviroc and Tenofovir Designed for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis of HIV-1: An in vitro Assessment of the Effect on Vaginal Lactic Acid Bacteria Microflora

HIV AIDS (Auckl). 2021 Apr 8;13:399-413. doi: 10.2147/HIV.S291065. eCollection 2021.


Purpose: To formulate and evaluate microspheres of the antiretroviral drugs maraviroc and tenofovir intended for a candidate vaginal microbicide and assess its effect on the vaginal lactic acid bacteria microflora.

Methods: Ionic gelation technique was used to formulate maraviroc and tenofovir microspheres with subsequent characterization. The effect of varying concentrations of the polymer, crosslinking agent and the curing time on the outcome variables viz: particle size, mucoadhesion and encapsulation efficiency were investigated. Lactic acid bacteria were isolated from the vagina of healthy women using standard microbiologic methods. The analysis of their 16S rRNA sequence data identified Lactobacillus fermentum and Enterococcus faecalis strains which were assigned GenBank accession numbers. The efficacy of the microspheres on HIV-1BaL strain was evaluated using TZM-bl indicator cells.

Results: The optimal maraviroc and tenofovir microspheres had particle sizes of (434.82 µm and 456.18 µm), mucoadhesion of (93.3% and 90%) and encapsulation efficiency (92.80% and 78.9%) respectively. Maraviroc release kinetics followed a zero-order model and tenofovir was released via Higuchi model. The assay of a 1 mg/mL suspension of the microspheres on the strains of Lactobacillus fermentum and Enterococcus faecalis showed a viability of 93.9% and 89.7%, respectively. There was a statistically significant difference between the mean absorbance readings of the test agent and that of the positive control (P = 0.001). The microspheres elicited a progressive decline in HIV infectivity until at a concentration of 1 μg/mL.

Conclusion: The antiretroviral drugs loaded in the microspheres, had good mucoadhesion which is a potential for prolonged residence time in the vagina. The antiretroviral drugs were adequately released from the microspheres and showed efficacy against the HIV-1 BaL virus strain. There was no significant disruption in the growth of the lactic acid bacteria which constitute valuable bacteria microflora of the vagina.

Keywords: Enterococcus faecalis; HIV prevention; Lactobacillus fermentum; vaginal microbicides.