July 24, 2008 A new study by researchers from Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health addresses one of the most challenging issues in infant health and preventing mother-to-child HIV transmission in poor countries. In these settings, HIV-infected mothers had been advised that for the best outcome for their infants, they should exclusively breast-feed, followed by a rapid weaning four to six months after birth. But according to the study conducted in Lusaka, Zambia by Mailman School researchers, which was published in the July 10 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, abrupt cessation of breast-feeding by HIV+ mothers after the first four months of life did not result in any statistically significant benefit to infants in terms of HIV-free survival at 24 months, compared to those infants who were weaned at an average of 16 months of age (68.4% versus 64%). A further finding from the study indicated that infants who were HIV+ at four months of age had significantly higher death rates by 24 months if they were abruptly weaned than if breast-feeding were continued (74% versus 55%).
Among infants who were breast- fed and not infected with HIV at four months, there was no statistically significant difference in HIV-free survival at 24 months 84 percent for those who stopped breast- feeding early compared to 81 percent who continued to breast- feed.
The study included 958 women with HIV and their infants. The proportion of new HIV infections between four and 24 months was not significantly different between the children whose mother abruptly stopped breast-feeding and those whose mothers continued to breast-feed indefinitely, and no significant differences were found in survival between them. Seventy-six percent of infants whose mothers stopped breast-feeding at four months survived to 24 months of age versus 75 percent of infants whose mothers continued breast- feeding for as long as the women chose. Four months wa
|Contact: Stephanie Berger|
Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health