Cerebrospinal Fluid and Brain Tissue Penetration of Tenofovir, Lamivudine, and Efavirenz in Postmortem Tissues with Cryptococcal Meningitis

Melanie R. Nicol, Katelyn A. Pastick, Joneé Taylor, Olivie C. Namuju, Joshua Rhein, Darlisha A. Williams, David B. Meya, David R. Boulware, Robert Lukande

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The central nervous system (CNS) is a known HIV reservoir, yet little is known about drug exposure in the brain. Our primary objective was to quantify exposure of three common antiretrovirals in brain tissue and compare exposures to plasma and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). We also sought to identify pockets of brain most vulnerable to inadequate drug exposures and examine the role of meningitis in drug penetration into the CNS. Tenofovir, lamivudine, and efavirenz concentrations were measured using liquid chromatography and tandem mass spectrometry in plasma and CSF from 14 individuals with HIV, 7 with cryptococcal meningitis. In four individuals (three with meningitis) drug concentrations were also measured in 13 distinct brain tissue regions. In subjects with meningitis, geometric mean ratio (95% confidence interval) of tenofovir CSF to plasma was 66% (7–598%) and 14% (6–31%) in subjects without meningitis. Lamivudine CSF penetration was 100% (25–409%) in subjects with meningitis and 30% (24–37%) in subjects without meningitis. Tenofovir brain tissue concentrations were 36% (14–124%) of plasma and 49% (1–572%) of CSF. Lamivudine brain concentrations were 37% (23–64%) of plasma and 27% (1–104%) of CSF. Efavirenz brain tissue concentrations were 128% (108–179%) of plasma. Tissues collected postmortem provide a unique opportunity to assess drug distribution in tissues difficult to sample in living subjects. CSF is a poor surrogate for drug exposure throughout the CNS. Antiretrovirals differentially penetrate into the CNS and penetration may be enhanced by meningitis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)445-449
Number of pages5
JournalClinical and translational science
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1 2019


PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

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