Background: To understand whether combination antiretroviral therapy (cART) has been optimized, we asked whether 3-drug protease inhibitor (PI)-based cART intensified with raltegravir and maraviroc and initiated during early infection would improve outcomes when compared with similarly applied 3-drug PI-based cART.
Methods: Forty newly HIV-1–infected patients were randomized 1:2 to receive 3-drug (N = 14) or 5-drug (N = 26) therapy. The primary end point was the percent of subjects with undetectable plasma viremia using standard reverse transcriptase–polymerase chain reaction and the single copy assay after 48 weeks. Secondary end points included levels of cell-associated HIV-1 DNA and RNA and levels of infectious virus in resting CD4+ T cells at week 96 and quantitative and qualitative immunologic responses.
Results: At 48 weeks, 34 subjects remained on study and are included in the as-treated analysis. Three of 11 (27.3%) in the 3-drug arm and 9 of 21 (42.9%) in the 5-drug arm had plasma HIV-1 RNA levels below detection by both standard reverse transcriptase–polymerase chain reaction and single copy assay (P = 0.46, Fisher exact test). No significant differences in absolute levels of proviral DNA or changes in cell-associated RNA were seen during 96 weeks of therapy. Mean levels of infectious HIV-1 in resting CD4+ T cells at week 96 in 7 subjects treated with 3-drugs and 13 with 5-drugs were 0.67 and 0.71 infectious units per million, respectively (P = 0.81). No differences were seen in quantitative or qualitative immunologic determinations including markers of immune activation.
Conclusions: Intensified 5-drug cART initiated during early infection fails to significantly further impact virologic or immunologic responses beyond those achieved with standard 3-drug PI-based cART.