Influence of letermovir treatment on gut inflammation in people living with HIV on antiretroviral therapy: protocol of the open-label controlled randomised CIAO study

BMJ Open. 2023 Jan 23;13(1):e067640. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2022-067640.


Introduction: Chronic cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection is very frequent in people living with HIV (PLWH). High anti-CMV IgG titres, which may be linked to transient CMV replication, have been associated with earlier mortality, CD8 T-cell expansion, lower CD4/CD8 ratio and increased T-cell senescence. We previously showed that anti-CMV IgG titres correlated with gut permeability in PLWH on antiretroviral therapy (ART), which was associated with microbial translocation, systemic inflammation and non-infectious/non-AIDS comorbidities. Letermovir, a novel anti-CMV drug with a good safety profile, was recently approved for anti-CMV prophylaxis in allogeneic haematopoietic stem cell transplant recipients. A drastic and selective reduction of both low-grade replication and clinically significant CMV infections, combined with an improved immune reconstitution have been reported. In vitro, letermovir prevented CMV-induced epithelial disruption in intestinal tissues. Based on these findings, we aim to assess whether letermovir could inhibit CMV subclinical replication in CMV-seropositive PLWH receiving ART and, in turn, decrease CMV-associated gut damage and inflammation.

Method and analysis: We will conduct a multi-centre, open-label, randomised, controlled clinical trial, including a total of 60 CMV-seropositive ART-treated PLWH for at least 3 years, with a viral load <50 copies/mL and CD4+ count >400 cells/µL. Forty participants will be randomised to receive letermovir for 14 weeks and 20 participants will receive standard of care (ART) alone. Plasma, pheripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs), and stool samples will be collected. Colon biopsies will be collected in an optional substudy. We will assess the effect of letermovir on gut damage, microbial translocation, inflammation and HIV reservoir size.

Ethics and dissemination: The study was approved by Health Canada and the Research Ethics Boards of the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC-REB, protocol number: MP37-2022-8295). Results will be made available through publications in open access peer-reviewed journals and through the CIHR/CTN website.

Trial registration number: NCT05362916.


Publication types

  • Clinical Trial Protocol

MeSH terms

  • Antiviral Agents / therapeutic use
  • Cytomegalovirus
  • Cytomegalovirus Infections*
  • HIV Infections* / drug therapy
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / complications
  • Multicenter Studies as Topic
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic


  • letermovir
  • Antiviral Agents

Associated data