Penetration of Tenofovir and Emtricitabine in Mucosal Tissues: Implications for Prevention of HIV-1 Transmission

Science Translational Medicine  07 Dec 2011:
Vol. 3, Issue 112, pp. 112re4
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3003174

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A mainstay of strategies to prevent HIV-1 transmission is to use antiretroviral therapy (ART) for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). Critical to the design and interpretation of PrEP prevention trials is the ability to make accurate pharmacological measurements of ART drugs in human genital and colorectal mucosal tissues, the principal route of HIV transmission. Here, we evaluated two drugs that are preferentially used for PrEP: tenofovir (TFV) disoproxil fumarate (TDF) and emtricitabine (FTC). A single oral dose of TDF/FTC (Truvada) was administered to 15 healthy individuals. Over the next 14 days, TFV and FTC were measured in blood plasma and genital secretions using a sensitive assay (lower level of quantification, 0.1 ng/ml). The active intracellular phosphorylated metabolites of these drugs [TFV diphospate (TFV-DP) and FTC triphosphate (FTC-TP)] were measured in homogenates prepared from rectal, vaginal, and cervical tissues. TFV and FTC were detected in blood plasma 14 days after administration of a single dose. The area under the concentration-time curve from 24 hours to 14 days (AUC1–14d) for FTC in genital secretions was 27-fold greater than in blood plasma, whereas the AUC1–14d for TFV was only 2.5-fold greater in genital secretions than in blood plasma. In rectal tissue, TFV and TFV-DP concentrations were detectable for 14 days and were 100-fold higher than the concentrations in vaginal and cervical tissues. Vaginal and cervical tissue concentrations of FTC were 10- to 15-fold higher than in rectal tissue. Despite high concentrations of FTC in vaginal and cervical tissue, FTC-TP concentrations in all tissue types were detected for only 2 days after dose. The exposure to TFV, TFV-DP, FTC, and FTC-TP was wide ranging depending on the type of mucosal tissue. These results demonstrate the need for detailed pharmacological studies to improve the application of ART for PrEP to prevent transmission of HIV.


  • * Present address: GlaxoSmithKline, Research Triangle Park, NC 27709, USA.

  • Present address: United Therapeutics, Research Triangle Park, NC 27709, USA.

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