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Drug Helps Prevent Breast-Feeding Moms From Passing on HIV

6 weeks of nevirapine greatly reduced infant infections in Africa, India, study found

WEDNESDAY, Feb. 6 (HealthDay News) -- The antiretroviral drug nevirapine greatly reduces the risk that HIV-infected mothers will pass the virus to their babies during breast-feeding, according to a study conducted in Africa and India.

Nevirapine is already in widespread use in developing countries to prevent HIV-positive women from infecting their newborns during childbirth, note researchers at Johns Hopkins University, in Baltimore.

In this study, the Hopkins team and colleagues in Ethiopia, India and Uganda gave daily doses of the drug to breast-feeding infants when they were 8 to 42 days old.

By the time they reached 6 weeks of age, the rate of HIV infection among infants who received the drug daily was about half that of infants who received a single dose of nevirapine at birth, which is the current standard of care.

After six months, the infants who'd received the six-week drug treatment were almost a third less likely to suffer HIV infection or death than those given the single dose at birth.

The study included about 2,000 infants and was conducted from 2001 to 2007. It's one of the first randomized controlled trials to show that a drug can prevent HIV transmission in infants being breast-fed by HIV-infected mothers.

The findings were presented Monday at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections, in Boston.

Breast-feeding is a major cause of HIV infection in the developing world. Each year, about 150,000 infants are infected with HIV through breast-feeding, according to the World Health Organization.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has more about HIV infections in infants and children.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Johns Hopkins Medicine, news release, Feb. 4, 2008

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