Journal Article

An intravaginal ring that releases three antiviral agents and a contraceptive blocks SHIV-RT infection, reduces HSV-2 shedding, and suppresses hormonal cycling in rhesus macaques

Women globally need access to multipurpose prevention technologies (MPTs) that prevent human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), sexually transmitted infections that increase HIV acquisition/transmission risk, and unintended pregnancy. Seeking an MPT with activity against HIV, herpes simplex virus-2 (HSV-2), and human papillomavirus (HPV), we developed a prototype intravaginal ring (IVR), the MZCL IVR, which released the antiviral agents MIV-150, zinc acetate, and carrageenan (MZC for short) and the contraceptive levonorgestrel (LNG). Previously, we showed that an MZC gel has potent activity against immunodeficiency viruses, HSV-2, and HPV and that the MZCL (MZC with LNG) IVR releases all four components in macaques in vivo at levels associated with efficacy. Vaginal fluid from treated macaques has in vitro activity against HIV, HSV-2, and HPV. Herein, we assessed the ability of the MZCL IVR to protect macaques against repeated co-challenge with HSV-2 and SHIV-RT (simian immunodeficiency virus [SIV] containing the reverse transcriptase gene from HIV) and prevent hormonal cycling. We evaluated in vivo drug release in co-challenged macaques by measuring drug levels in blood and vaginal fluid and residual drug levels in used IVRs. The MZCL IVR significantly prevented SHIV-RT infection, reduced HSV-2 vaginal shedding, and prevented cycling. No non-nucleoside HIV reverse transcriptase inhibitor (NNRTI)-resistant SHIV was detected in macaques that became infected after continuous exposure to MZC from the IVR. Macaques wearing the MZCL IVR also had carrageenan levels in vaginal fluid expected to protect from HPV (extrapolated from mice) and LNG levels in blood associated with contraceptive efficacy. The MZCL IVR is a promising MPT candidate that warrants further development.