The introduction, in 1995, of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) dramatically reduced the morbidity and mortality of HIV-infected patients. However, the brain remains a site of viral replication for HIV and thus is still an important target for antiretroviral agents. Consequently, a clear understanding of how the current anti-HIV drugs reach the CNS, and interact at the level of the blood-brain barrier and blood-CSF barrier, is important if we are to maximise viral suppression and improve clinical outcome. It would also contribute to the development of new anti-HIV drugs and the identification of transport inhibitors that could be used as adjuvant therapies. In this review we focus on the role of the blood-brain and blood-CSF barriers in the delivery of the main classes of approved anti-HIV drugs. Among these groups, the CNS distribution of the nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors is the best characterised. It involves probenecid efflux transport mechanisms, which limit their brain delivery and probably their, neurological efficacy. Nevirapine and efavirenz, the commonly prescribed non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors, can readily enter the CSF, however, it remains to be seen if a transport system is involved in their distribution. The protease inhibitors have only a limited ability to reach the CNS, with the majority of this class of drugs not even being detected in human CSF after administration. This is partly the result of their removal from the CNS by the efflux transporters; P-glycoprotein, and possibly multi-drug resistance associated protein (MRP).
Keywords: blood-brain barrier, choroid plexus, hiv, transport, csf, nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors, nonnucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors,, protease inhibitors
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