Lopinavir/ritonavir or 3TC PrEP equally protective against infant HIV infection during breastfeeding

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Lopinavir/ritonavir (Kaletra) or 3TC (lamivudine, Epivir) proved equally protective as infant prophylaxis against HIV infection during 12 months of breastfeeding, Dr Chipepo Kankasa, presenting on behalf of the ANRS 12174 trial, told participants at the 21st Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) last week in Boston.

Both drugs were equally well tolerated with similar safety profiles. Lopinavir, boosted with ritonavir, proved as efficacious as 3TC with transmission rates at 50 weeks of 1.4% (0.7-2.8) and 1.5% (0.8-2.9) p = 0.83, respectively.

HIV transmission through breastfeeding remains a challenge in many resource-limited settings where there are no safe alternatives. The World Health Organization (WHO) now recommends breastfeeding of infants born to mothers living with HIV for 12 months, using either maternal antiretroviral therapy (ART) or peri-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to reduce the risk of HIV transmission.



How well something works (in a research study). See also ‘effectiveness’.

mother-to-child transmission (MTCT)

Transmission of HIV from a mother to her unborn child in the womb or during birth, or to infants via breast milk. Also known as vertical transmission.


The ‘HIV reservoir’ is a group of cells that are infected with HIV but have not produced new HIV (latent stage of infection) for many months or years. Latent HIV reservoirs are established during the earliest stage of HIV infection. Although antiretroviral therapy can reduce the level of HIV in the blood to an undetectable level, latent reservoirs of HIV continue to survive (a phenomenon called residual inflammation). Latently infected cells may be reawakened to begin actively reproducing HIV virions if antiretroviral therapy is stopped. 


The physical form in which a drug is manufactured or administered. Examples of formulations include tablets, capsules, powders, and oral and injectable solutions. A drug may be available in multiple formulations.

boosting agent

Booster drugs are used to ‘boost’ the effects of protease inhibitors and some other antiretrovirals. Adding a small dose of a booster drug to an antiretroviral makes the liver break down the primary drug more slowly, which means that it stays in the body for longer times or at higher levels. Without the boosting agent, the prescribed dose of the primary drug would be ineffective.

Nevirapine (Viramune) and 3TC have shown similar efficacy and safety as infant prophylaxis during six months of breastfeeding but no studies to date have evaluated the effectiveness of infant prophylaxis over the entire 12-month breastfeeding period. Lopinavir/ritonavir is a good candidate for infant prophylaxis: it has a high genetic barrier to resistance, a good safety profile and is available in a paediatric formulation.

ANRS 12174, a multi-national, open-label, randomised, double-blind controlled study compared the efficacy and safety of prolonged infant prophylaxis with lopinavir/ritonavir (40mg/10mg twice daily if 2 to 4kg and 80mg/20mg if >4kg) to 3TC (7.5mg twice daily if 2 to 4kg, 25mg if weight 4 to 8 kg and 50mg if >8kg) to prevent HIV transmission from day seven until one week after cessation of breastfeeding (for a maximum of 50 weeks) in infants born to mothers with CD4 counts above 350 cells/mm3 and who were therefore not eligible for ART. 

The study recruited infants who were 5 to 9 days old, did not have HIV, were being breastfed and had birth weights over 2000 grams in Ougadougou (Burkina Faso), East London (South Africa), Mbale (Uganda) and Lusaka (Zambia). Overall, 1273 infants were enrolled, 636 in the lopinavir/ritonavir arm and 637 in the 3TC arm, of which 604 and 607 infants, respectively, were included in the analyses.

The primary outcome was HIV infection by week 50 and secondary outcomes included death, HIV-free survival and severe adverse events.

Infants’ baseline characteristics were similar between the two arms of the study, with a median birth weight of 3000 grams. Baseline antenatal maternal median CD4 count was 529 (IQR: 432-669) and median maternal age was 27.4 years. At baseline, the proportion of mothers with undetectable viral load varied between countries ranging from a median of 65.1% in Uganda to 30.3% in Zambia. The median percentage of mothers on a PMTCT (prevention of mother-to-child transmission) regimen during pregnancy and labour was 96.3% and 98%, respectively. Median duration of breastfeeding was 41.1 and 41.4 weeks, p = 0.17 in the lopinavir/ritonavir and 3TC arms, respectively, with considerable variation between countries.

Seventeen HIV infections were diagnosed: eight in the lopinavir/ritonavir arm and nine in the 3TC arm. There were a total of 33 deaths, of which 18 and 15 were in the lopinavir/ritonavir and 3TC arms, respectively; a mortality rate of 3% (1.9-4.8) and 2.5% (1.5-4.1), p = 0.57, respectively. Dr Kankasa noted no death was attributable to HIV but to diarrhoea or pneumonia.

HIV-free survival was similar, 95.6% (93.6-97) and 96.2% (94.3-94.7) in the lopinavir/ritonavir and 3TC arms, respectively. Approximately a third of infants in both arms experienced one or more severe adverse events.

Compared with other studies Dr Kankasa noted these findings report the lowest postnatal transmission rate at 12 months.

Comparison of ANRS 12174 with other studies


Maternal CD4 count

PrEP drug

PrEP duration

Duration of exposure

Postnatal transmission



>200 Median >400


Max 14W

13% still exposed at M18

W6-M9: 5.2%

PEPI (Malawi)

>200 Median >400


Max 14W

13% still exposed at M18

W6-M9: 6.3%

SWEN (Uganda, Ethiopia, India)

>200 Median >400


Max 6W

32% still exposed at M6

W6-M9: 4.3%

MITRA (Tanzania)

269-611 Median 411


Max 6M

Median 18W

W6-M6: 1.1%

BAN (Malawi)

>250 Median 440


Max 6M

96% stopped before W32

W2-M6: 1.7%



HPTN 046 (South Africa)

>350 Median 530


Max 6M

Beyond 6M

W6-M12: 1.7%

ANRS 12174

>350 Median 578

Lopinavir/r or 3TC

Max 12M

Max 12M


D7-M6: 0.7%

Dr Kankasa noted concerns about the efficacy of option B+ (the current WHO recommendation) and cited the results of the Kesho Bora randomised trial as an example in which transmission was only reduced by 50%. She added this is likely related to activated T-cell reservoir in breast milk not affected by maternal ART. In this context, she said, infant PrEP could potentially help further decrease HIV postnatal transmission among women on ART.


Kankasa C et al. Infant lopinavir/r versus 3TC to prevent postnatal HIV-1 transmission: the ANRS 12174 trial. 21st Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI), Boston, abstract 70, 2014.

A webcast of this session is available through the CROI website.

This news report is also available in Russian.