Scientific view

ODYSSEY trial: Improving the lives of children living with HIV

10 May, 2023

This article was written by Philippa Musoke, Penta ID Network ODYSSEY Co-investigator in Uganda. It is taken from Penta’s 2022 Annual Social Report.

ODYSSEY’s results on dolutegravir (DTG) have been a game changer in many places in Africa. DTG has been found to work well, have fewer side effects, and be safe for children to take with other drugs. Additionally, it is taken only once a day and there are now formulations that are appropriate for very young children, right down to three kilos, making it an ideal solution for families who struggle with getting their children to take their medication regularly. With DTG, children have a better chance of suppressing the virus, growing well and living a healthy life.

Until recently, DTG was only available for adult use. There wasn’t knowledge of the recommended dosage for children, even though we knew it was one of the better drugs for treating HIV, because it was potent and rapidly reduced the viral load. Paediatric versions of older anti-HIV drugs were difficult for children to take and did not reduce the viral load very well, making successfully treating HIV in children difficult. But now, the lives of children and young people living with HIV have been improved. Thanks to ODYSSEY, we now know that DTG can be given to our children safely, in the appropriate dosage and that it is better than the older drugs.

The ODYSSEY trial was undertaken collaboratively and globally in Africa, Asia, and Europe. This not only improved the efficiency of the study but also helped ensure that the results were more widely applicable across different regions. It also fostered a sense of teamwork and camaraderie among the members, which was essential for the success of the trial.