The number of antiretroviral agents available for children who are failing existing therapy is limited. Data are lacking on the use of various combination regimens and the resulting viral load dynamics in such children.
Between March 1998 and March 2000, HIV-infected children younger than 18 years of age were studied in an open trial. The study regimen included ritonavir, with at least two drugs to which the virus was known or presumed to be sensitive. Subjects were ritonavir-naive and were included if they had high viral loads while receiving antiretroviral therapy. Patients had clinical assessments, CD4 counts and viral load monitoring.
Fifteen antiretroviral-experienced HIV-infected children were enrolled. Approximately 87% (13 of 15) had perinatally-acquired HIV; median age was 7.9 years (range 1.6 to 14.8). At enrolment, the median CD4 count was 557 cells/mm3 (range 57 to 1702) and the median viral load was 72,600 copies/mL (range 3626 to 796,440). The majority of children (73.3%) had increases in CD4 counts within 12 weeks. During this period, the median increase in CD4 counts over baseline was 30.0%. Approximately 73% (eight of 11) of subjects with initial improvements in CD4 counts had sustained increases at 32 to 48 weeks. Over the first 12 weeks, 60% (nine of 15) had greater than 0.5 log10 decreases in viral load. The improvement was sustained in 88.9% (eight of nine) of these patients at 32 to 48 weeks. Three patients discontinued therapy due to taste aversion.
Among pediatric patients with high viral loads while on existing therapy, the ritonavir-containing regimen was generally well tolerated. In a significant proportion of patients, modification of therapy was associated with sustained improvements in viral loads and CD4 counts over 32 to 48 weeks.