A game-changing HIV implant?
In what may prove to be a breakthrough in the fight against HIV, a tiny implant containing an anti-retroviral drug has been successfully tried in humans. Developed by drugmaker Merck, the matchstick-size device is inserted in the upper arm and releases tiny doses of an infection-blocking drug, called islatravir, that is 10 times more potent than any previous HIV drug. In the trial, implants were placed in a dozen volunteers for 12 weeks. The participants suffered no significant side effects, and modeling of the drug-concentration data suggests that the implant could successfully block the virus for a year or more. That could revolutionize the battle against HIV, which infects about 1.7 million people a year. While daily anti-retroviral pills can successfully suppress the virus, many people forget to take the tablets daily. Prejudice against HIV sufferers also stops some women in African countries from keeping the pills in their homes, where they could be discovered by family members, reports The New York Times. “If—and I’m emphasizing if—it pans out in a larger trial that [this implant] delivers a level of drug that’s protective for a year, that would be a game changer,” says Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Disease. ■