Matchstick-Size Implant Prevents and Treats HIV

A significant improvement in human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) prevention and survival rates could be on the horizon due to a revolutionary device.

A significant improvement in human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) prevention and survival rates could be on the horizon due to a revolutionary device.

Scientists from the Oak Crest Institute of Science created a subdermal implant that delivers antiretroviral (ARV) drugs in order to either prevent or treat the disease. With about 1.2 million Americans living with HIV at the end of 2011, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the implant has the potential to change the standard treatment.

Daily use of oral or topical ARV drugs has already proven to be a sufficient way to prevent HIV negative individuals from getting the disease, but this implant addresses a hurdle in the process.

“This novel device will revolutionize how we treat or prevent HIV/AIDS as it delivers powerful HIV-stopping drugs and eliminates one of the key obstacles in HIV/AIDS prevention — adherence to proper dosing regimens,” one of the authors Marc Baum, founder of Oak Crest and senior faculty member, said in a news release.

One of the main issues with current HIV medications is that patients do not always take the dose properly. If it’s not taken at the proper time an undesired outcome can occur. Therefore, the implant eliminates this concern by releasing the drug on its own.

The device, about the size of a matchstick, is compared to the way a contraceptive implant administers medication. It is about 40mm long and a clinician inserts it under the skin, usually in the upper arm. The small flexible tube provides a controlled, sustained release of ARV drugs for up to 40 days.

The authors noted that this is the first time that an implant has been used for HIV prevention and treatment.

“It is easily inserted and removed and provides sustained release of the potent prodrug tenofoviralafenamide, which is roughly ten times more potent against HIV than tenofovirdisoproxilfumarate, another tenofovir prodrug that has been shown to prevent sexually transmitted HIV when used as a pre-exposure prophylaxis,” Baum explained.

Published in Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, the study tested the implant on dogs and revealed that no adverse side effects occurred.

“We are very pleased with the results of our preliminary studies and are working diligently to develop a subdermal implant for HIV prevention that will remain effective for a full 12 months,” Baum said.