Mean Corpuscular Volume as a Marker for Adherence to Zidovudine-Containing Therapy in HIV-Infected Adults

Joseph O Mugisha 1, Katherine Donegan 2, Sarah Fidler 3, Gita Ramjee 4, Andrew Hodson 3, David T Dunn 2, Kholoud Porter*, 2, Pontiano Kaleebu 1, §Author Comment: on behalf of the Day Hospital Group

1 MRC/UVRI Uganda Research Unit on AIDS, Entebbe, Uganda
2 MRC Clinical Trials Unit, London, UK
3 Imperial College, London, UK
4 MRC HIV Prevention Research Unit, Durban, South Africa

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© Mugisha et al.; Licensee Bentham Open.

open-access license: This is an open access article licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted, non-commercial use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the work is properly cited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Medical Research Council Clinical Trials Unit, Aviation House, 125 Kingsway, London WC2B 6NH, UK; Tel: 020 7670 4715; Fax: 020 7670 4685; E-mail:
§ See Appendix



To assess whether mean corpuscular volume (MCV) is useful in detecting non-adherence to AZTcontaining therapy.


Observational study within randomised controlled trial.


We combined data from two treatment arms in SPARTAC, an RCT of short-course cART in primary HIV infection, classifying participants as responders (HIV-RNA decrease ≥1 log10 or reaching <400copies/ml) or nonresponders following cART initiation. We assessed the sensitivity and specificity of using different percentage increases in MCV for accurately differentiating between responders and non-responders. We further examined changes in MCV levels up to 24 weeks after protocol-indicated cART cessation.


Of 119 participants included in this analysis, 73 (61%) were women, 71 of whom were randomised in Africa. Ninety-eight (88%) and 84 (85%) were classified as responders at 4 and 12 weeks respectively following cART initiation. MCV increased by a mean 3% and 1% at week 4, and 14% and <1% at 12 weeks for responders and non-responders. A 2% MCV increase at 4 weeks had 62% sensitivity and specificity for identifying virological response. At 12 weeks, an 8% increase had 89% sensitivity and specificity. In responders, MCV remained lower for individuals in African compared to non-African sites throughout and rose from 85 vs 90 fL at cART start to 96 vs 103 fL at 12 weeks post-initiation then fell to 88 vs 93 fL and 86 vs 89 fL at 12 and 48 weeks post-cessation.


In low-income countries, where HIV RNA may be unavailable, 12-weekly MCV measurements may be useful in monitoring adherence to AZT-containing regimens.

Keywords: HIV, MCV, adherence, anti-HIV therapy, low-income countries, HIV RNA..