BIRMINGHAM, Ala. Providing HIV combination antiretroviral drug therapy is key to saving the lives of African children infected with the disease.
Letting nurses and other trained health care workers deliver that therapy and monitor patients, especially when doctors are in short supply, is just as important to saving lives, according to a new study by the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB).
Data for the study was gathered by following the health of 4,975 children for three years at the Centre for Infectious Disease Research in Zambia (CIDRZ), a nonprofit clinical, research and training center run by UAB faculty in conjunction with the Zambian government. The results are published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
On average, children enrolled in the study experienced a more than doubling of their CD4 cell counts after one year of antiretrovirals, from an average of 12.9 percent CD4 count to 27 percent CD4 count, the researchers said.
The CD4 count is a blood test for a certain type of white blood cell that allows health care providers to monitor the effect of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) on the immune system. Low CD4 counts are a sign of a weakening immune system, which puts patients at increased risk for developing AIDS and other opportunistic infections.
We know from work in the U.S. and Europe that children do well on antiretroviral drugs. But we were surprised in this study at just how high their CD4 counts went, and how quickly they went up, said Jeffrey Stringer, M.D., director of CIDRZ and a professor in UABs Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
In addition to the improvements seen in the CD4 counts, the UAB study found HIV-infected children who received antiretrovirals went up noticeably in what is called the weight-for-age score. This measurement is calculated from standardized pediatric growth charts and is used to monitor the health of HIV-infected infants
|Contact: Troy Goodman|
University of Alabama at Birmingham