Dolutegravir for first-line antiretroviral therapy in low-income and middle-income countries: uncertainties and opportunities for implementation and research
Dorward J., Lessells R., Drain PK., Naidoo K., de Oliveira T., Pillay Y., Abdool Karim SS., Garrett N.
A new first-line antiretroviral therapy (ART) regimen containing dolutegravir is being rolled out in low-income and middle-income countries (LMICs). In studies from predominantly high-income settings, dolutegravir-based regimens had superior efficacy, tolerability, and durability compared with existing first-line regimens. However, several questions remain about the roll out of dolutegravir in LMICs, where most people with HIV are women of reproductive age, tuberculosis prevalence can be high, and access to viral load and HIV drug resistance testing is limited. Findings from cohort studies suggest that dolutegravir is safe when initiated in pregnancy, but more data are needed to determine the risk of adverse birth outcomes when dolutegravir-based regimens are initiated before conception. Increasing access to viral load testing to monitor the effectiveness of dolutegravir remains crucial, but the best strategy to manage patients with viraemia is unclear. Furthermore, evidence to support the effectiveness of dolutegravir when given with tuberculosis treatment is scarce, particularly in programmatic settings in LMICs. Lastly, whether nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor resistance will affect the long-term efficacy of dolutegravir-based regimens in first-line, and potentially second-line, ART is unknown. Clinical trials, cohorts, and surveillance of HIV drug resistance will be necessary to answer these questions and to maximise the benefits of this new regimen.