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6-month drug regimen cuts HIV risk for breastfeeding infants, NIH study finds
Date:3/2/2011

Giving breastfeeding infants of HIV-infected mothers a daily dose of the antiretroviral drug nevirapine for six months halved the risk of HIV transmission to the infants at age 6 months compared with giving infants the drug daily for six weeks, according to preliminary clinical trial data presented today.

The longer nevirapine regimen achieved a 75 percent reduction in HIV transmission risk through breast milk for the infants of HIV-infected mothers with higher T-cell counts who had not yet begun treatment for HIV.

The study was presented at the 18th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) in Boston.

"Extended breastfeeding reduces infant mortality in places that lack safe, clean water by protecting babies from common childhood diseases because breast milk contains protective antibodies from the mother that formula feeding does not provide," says Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, which funds the trial. "These findings show that giving the infants of HIV-infected mothers an antiretroviral drug daily for the full duration of breastfeeding safely minimizes the threat of HIV transmission through breast milk while preserving the health benefits of extended breastfeeding."

The new findings apply to mothers and infants in developing nations, where infectious diseases such as gastroenteritis and pneumonia often pose a life-threatening risk to very young children. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that HIV-infected mothers in the United States feed their babies with infant formula, not breast milk, because safe and affordable formula is available, infant deaths due to infections are low and only total avoidance of breastfeeding will completely protect these infants from HIV transmission through breast milk.

This advanced-stage clinical trial known as HPTN 046 is
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Contact: Laura Sivitz Leifman
niaidnews@nih.gov
301-402-1663
NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
Source:Eurekalert

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