The Human Immuno deficiency virus, or HIV, that is the causative virus of AIDS is present in most body fluids of infected people and poses a high risk of transmission between individuals. Children born to HIV-positive mothers who have not been treated with antiretroviral therapy face a 25% risk of contracting the life threatening infection during the mother's pregnancy or at birth. The chances of mother-to-infant transmission is as high as 40% when babies are breastfed following birth.
In order to prevent mother-to-infant HIV transmission, zidovudine monotherapy, better known as AZT, is given to the baby as a standard of care shortly after birth. Researchers from the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, might be on path to bring down the viral transmission rates by half by administering a fusion of drugs along with the usual drug AZT to infants.
The new study led by UCLA researchers enrolled a total of 1,684 babies born to HIV-positive mothers in the United States, Brazil, Argentina and South Africa. The babies included in the study were born to mothers who have never received any antiretroviral therapy during their pregnancies.
As part of the study, a new treatment methodology was devised. Three new drugs nevirapine, nelfinavir and lamivudine were used in different combinations along with AZT. The newborns were split into 3 groups and within 48 hours of birth, each group of babies was orally administered one of the three drug combinations.
A total of 140 babies out of the 1,684 were found to be infected with HIV - 97 of them were born with the infection whereas, the remaining 43 acquired the infection during the birth process. The babies who acquired the infection during the birth process were analyzed.
At three months of age, in the AZT alone group, 24 babies were found to be infected compared to 12 babies in the AZT, nelfinavir and lamivudine group and only 11 babies in the AZT, nevirapine group.
In all, the study envisages the strong clinical activity of the drug combinations particularly the two drug therapy of AZT and nevirapine which was found to be the least toxic to the babies.
The study was published on June 21 in the New England Journal of Medicine.
by RTT Staff Writer
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