Importance of early identification of PrEP breakthrough infections in a generalized HIV epidemic: a case report from a PrEP demonstration project in South Africa

Naicker, Cherise L.; Mansoor, Leila E.; Dawood, Halima; Naidoo, Kogieleum; Singo, Denzhe; Matten, David; Williamson, Carolyn; Abdool Karim, Quarraisha

The World Health Organisation recommends the use of tenofovir-containing pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) as an additional Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) prevention choice for men and women at substantial risk of HIV infection. PrEP could fill an important HIV prevention gap, especially for sexually active young women who are limited in their ability to negotiate mutual monogamy or condom use.
As PrEP is scaled up in high HIV incidence settings, it is crucial to consider the importance of early identification of HIV infection during PrEP use, to allow for rapid discontinuation of PrEP to reduce the risk of antiretroviral (ARV) resistance. The purpose of this case study is to provide this critical evidence.

Case presentation
This report describes a 20-year-old woman in a HIV sero-discordant relationship who initiated oral PrEP (tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (TDF) and emtricitabine (FTC)) through a demonstration project (CAPRISA 084) in October 2017. Despite good adherence throughout her PrEP use, she tested HIV antibody positive at month nine of study participation.
Retrospective testing showed increasing HIV viral load over time, and retrospective use of fourth-generation rapid HIV tests showed HIV detection (positive antigen/antibody) at month one. Sequencing confirmed a dominant wild type at month one with dual therapy resistance patterns emerging by month three (M184V and K65R mutations), which is suggestive of protracted PrEP use during an undetected HIV infection.
The participant was referred to infectious diseases for further management of her HIV infection and was initiated on a first line, tenofovir-sparing regimen. At the time of this report (January 2020), the participant had been on ARV- therapy (ART) for 13 months and had no signs of either clinical, immunologic or virologic failure.

This case report highlights the importance of appropriate HIV screening during wider oral PrEP scale-up in high HIV incidence settings to circumvent the consequences of prolonged dual therapy in an undiagnosed HIV infection and in turn prevent ARV resistance.

Geographic Areas


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BMC Infectious Diseases

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Published Here
December 20, 2022


HIV prevention, Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), Tenofovir, PrEP breakthrough infections in HIV-endemic settings, Fourth-generation rapid tests for HIV screening, HIV drug resistance