Combination HIV Antiretroviral Treatment Could Reduce Medication Frequency

The URMC-099 compound combined with antiretroviral therapy significantly reduced HIV levels.

A combination treatment designed to protect the nervous system from HIV may be able to rid the body of HIV for months, allowing patients to replace daily medication with treatment taken several times a year.

Researchers supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), led by Harris Gelbard, MD, PhD, at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, developed the URMC-099 compound to protect against neurologic damage caused by HIV. The compound is anti-inflammatory and has been shown to protect neuronal tissue. 

“Our ultimate hope is that we’re able to create a therapy that could be given less frequently than the daily therapy that is required today,” said Dr Gelbard. “If a drug could be given once every six months or longer, that would greatly increase compliance, reduce side effects, and help people manage the disease, because they won’t have to think about taking medication every day.”

Dr Gelbard and his team used a class of protease inhibitors developed by researchers at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, led by Howard Gendelman, MD. Researchers used nanotechnology to reconstitute the compound to increase its ability to target tissue. They transformed the drug into crystal form and added a protective coat.

This nano-antiretroviral therapy (nanoART) helps to penetrate immune cells and form areas of antiretroviral activity.

Researchers reasoned that the URMC-099 compound could act as a supplement taken with antiretroviral medication because of the compound’s anti-inflammatory effects. They tested the combination therapy on HIV-infected mice who were introduced to human immune stem cells.

The combination therapy significantly decreased levels of HIV compared to using nanoART therapy alone.  In some cases, the therapy decreased HIV levels below detectability. It also increased the ability of nanoART to create antiretroviral depots of immune cells, which could inhibit HIV replication.

“The NIH Office of AIDS Research has identified the development of long acting HIV therapies and research towards a cure as high priority topics for research support,” noted Dianne Rausch, PhD, director of NIMH’s Division of AIDS Research.  

“The nanoformulation strategies reported here could facilitate targeting HIV anatomic reservoirs such as lymph nodes and brain which are currently difficult to reach because of limited penetration of anti-retroviral drugs into tissue compartments.”


National Institute of Mental Health. Experimental Combination Surprises with Anti-HIV Effectiveness. January 20, 2016. Accessed January 25, 2016.