PrEP fails as man contracts drug-resistant HIV

For the first time, researchers have documented a case of an individual contracting HIV while adhering daily to the preventative HIV treatment pre-exposure prophylaxis regimen Truvada, according to a POZ article.

The infected individual is a 43-year-old Canadian man who has sex with men. The evidence suggests he followed the Truvada regimen well for 24 months, yet still became infected. The findings were presented at the 2016 Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Boston.

The PrEP regimen Truvada consists of two drugs, tenofovir and emtricitabine. The HIV contracted by said individual is resistant to both.

"After 32 years of experience with HIV research, I have learned never to say 'never,'" Robert M. Grant, MD, a professor at the University of California, San Francisco, is quoted in the POZ article. Dr. Grant was the head of the research that first proved PrEP's effectiveness in 2010. "Yet I also think that gay men benefit from feeling safer during sex, and I am grateful that PrEP affords that feeling."

Recent research suggests that among treatments for HIV-positive individuals, failing regimens are often due to a rise in the virus' resistance to tenofovir, which is the most oft prescribed antiretroviral therapy worldwide. According to the POZ article, as much as 1 percent of all individuals contracting HIV today inherit a virus with mutations that amount to a tenofovir resistance. Resistance to emtricitabine is much rarer, and a resistance to both is exceedingly rare.

One of the researchers on the case study, Richard Harrigan, PhD, director of the lab program at the British Columbia Center for Excellence in HIV/AIDS in Vancouver, Canada, said in the POZ article, "This demonstrates that while PrEP is beneficial, we can't rely on it to be an infallible magic bullet." Dr. Harrigan went on to assert that these new findings should not be a cause for panic.

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