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Treating HIV Infection at Birth

Antiretroviral therapy reduces mother-to-child HIV transmission

THURSDAY, Oct. 9, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- Antiretroviral therapy for newborn babies can reduce mother-to-child transmission of HIV, says new research.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and their colleagues assessed whether a combination of the drugs nevirapine and zidovudine given to babies reduced transmission of HIV-1 more than nevirapine alone.

The study, published in the Oct. 11 issue of The Lancet, included more than 1,100 babies of Malawian women with HIV-1 who were diagnosed with HIV within two hours of their expected delivery.

The babies were randomly assigned to receive either nevirapine alone or the combination of nevirapine and zidovudine. The drugs were given to the babies immediately after birth. The babies' HIV infection status was determined at birth and at 6-8 weeks.

The study found the rate of mother-to-child HIV transmission at 6-8 weeks was lower (about 15 percent) in the babies who received the combination therapy than those given nevirapine alone (about 21 percent).

Of the babies who were HIV-1 negative at birth, 7.7 percent of babies given the combination therapy were HIV-1 positive at 6-8 weeks compared with 12.1 percent of babies given nevirapine alone.

"Post-exposure prophylaxis could be a way of reaching babies of women who missed opportunities to be counseled and tested before or during pregnancy," researcher Taha E. Taha says in a prepared statement.

"The combined regimen of nevirapine and zidovudine that we studied is easy to implement and might be a candidate for wider use to prevent transmission of HIV from mothers to babies," she adds.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about HIV infection in infants and children.

SOURCE: The Lancet, news release, Oct. 9, 2003
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