Efficacy, Convenience, Safety and Durability of DTG-Based Antiretroviral Therapies: Evidence from a Prospective Study by the Italian MaSTER Cohort

Viruses. 2023 Apr 6;15(4):924. doi: 10.3390/v15040924.


Background: Dolutegravir (DTG) is recommended by international guidelines as a main component of an optimal initial regimen of cART (combination antiretroviral treatment) in people living with HIV (PLWH) and in case of switching for failure or optimization strategies. However, studies on the performance of DTG-containing regimens and indications for switching therapies in the long term are sparse. The purpose of this study was to evaluate prospectively the performance of DTG-based regimens, using the metrics of "efficacy", "safety", "convenience" and ''durability'', among a nationally representative cohort of PLWH in Italy. Methods: We selected all PLWH in four centers of the MaSTER cohort who initiated a DTG-based regimen either when naïve or following a regimen switch between 11 July 2018 and 2 July 2021. Participants were followed until the outcomes were recorded or until the end of the study on 4 August 2022, whichever occurred first. Interruption was reported even when a participant switched to another DTG-containing regimen. Survival regression models were fitted to evaluate associations between therapy performance and age, sex, nationality, risk of HIV transmission, HIV RNA suppression status, CD4+ T-cell count, year of HIV diagnosis, cART status (naïve or experienced), cART backbone and viral hepatitis coinfection. Results: There were 371 participants in our cohort who initiated a DTG-based cART regimen in the time frame of the study. The population was predominantly male (75.2%), of Italian nationality (83.3%), with a history of cART use (80.9%), and the majority initiated a DTG-based regimen following a switch strategy in 2019 (80.1%). Median age was 53 years (interquartile range (IQR): 45-58). Prior cART regimen was based mostly on a combination of NRTI drugs plus a PI-boosted drug (34.2%), followed by a combination of NRTIs plus an NNRTI (23.5%). Concerning the NRTI backbone, the majority comprised 3TC plus ABC (34.5%), followed by 3TC alone (28.6%). The most reported transmission risk factor was heterosexual intercourse (44.2%). Total interruptions of the first DTG-based regimen were registered in 58 (15.6%) participants. The most frequent reason for interruption was due to cART simplification strategies, which accounted for 52%. Only 1 death was reported during the study period. The median time of total follow-up was 556 days (IQR: 316.5-722.5). Risk factors for poor performance of DTG-containing-regimens were found to be: a backbone regimen containing tenofovir, being cART naïve, having detectable HIV RNA at baseline, FIB-4 score above 3.25 and having a cancer diagnosis. By contrast, protective factors were found to be: higher CD4+ T-cell counts and higher CD4/CD8 ratio at baseline. Conclusion: DTG-based regimens were used mainly as a switching therapy in our cohort of PLWH who had undetectable HIV RNA and a good immune status. In this type of population, the durability of DTG-based regimens was maintained in 84.4% of participants with a modest incidence of interruptions mostly due to cART simplification strategies. The results of this prospective real-life study confirm the apparent low risk of changing DTG-containing regimens due to virological failure. They may also help physicians to identify people with increased risk of interruption for different reasons, suggesting targeted medical interventions.

Keywords: HIV; MaSTER cohort; antiretroviral therapy; dolutegravir; survival analysis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anti-HIV Agents* / adverse effects
  • Female
  • HIV Infections* / drug therapy
  • Heterocyclic Compounds, 3-Ring / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Lamivudine / therapeutic use
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • RNA
  • Treatment Outcome


  • dolutegravir
  • Anti-HIV Agents
  • Heterocyclic Compounds, 3-Ring
  • RNA
  • Lamivudine

Grants and funding

This study was supported by a grant from ViiV Healthcare. The funder did not contribute to design of the study, the collection, analysis and interpretation of data or writing the manuscript.