Lamivudine monotherapy in children and adolescents: The devil is in the detail

L. Fairlie, J. Bernheimer, N. Sipambo, C. Fick, L. Kuhn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Although expanded access to antiretroviral therapy (ART), and starting lifelong ART as soon as possible after diagnosis of HIV, have dramatically improved survival and reduced morbidity in HIV-infected children and adolescents, ~20% of children will develop virological failure (VF). Children and adolescents may be at higher risk of VF and drug resistance for a number of reasons, including prevention of mother-to-child exposure, reliance on a caregiver to administer ART, poor palatability of paediatric drugs, tuberculosis/HIV co-treatment in protease inhibitor (PI) (mainly lopinavir/ritonavir)-based regimens, and adolescence being associated with poor adherence. In children with VF, if adherence issues are addressed and re-suppression is not achieved, a switch to second- or third-line drugs may be indicated, which is the gold standard in management. However, in the face of ongoing adherence challenges, with potential accumulation of resistance mutations, limited treatment options due to extensive resistance and limited approved paediatric formulations, other strategies have been used. These include continuing a failing PI regimen, switching to a holding regimen (one or more nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors) or discontinuing ART. Lamivudine monotherapy is a common choice when holding regimens are used, on the premise that the lamivudine-associated M184V resistance mutation reduces viral replication and may maintain clinical and immunological stability compared with discontinuing treatment altogether. However, this strategy is generally associated with immunological, and in some cases clinical, decline after starting lamivudine monotherapy. We discuss the pros and cons of using this therapy in children. We also propose guidance for using lamivudine monotherapy, suggesting clinical and immunological criteria for its use. Close monitoring and adherence support are required with this approach. Given many new emerging ART drugs and strategies, lamivudine monotherapy should be administered temporarily, while efforts to improve adherence are implemented. It should not be considered a default option in children with VF.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1055-1057
Number of pages3
JournalSouth African Medical Journal
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2017


  • Adolescents
  • Children
  • Lamivudine monotherapy
  • Virological failure


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